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Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Mantra for Stepparents: Don't Take it Personally

As we head into the last week of the Christmas holiday, life gets dicey. Emotions are heightened as we try to find the perfect gift for our stepchild or negotiate that last-minute schedule change with our ex.

And if we, as stepparents, are carrying emotions too closely to our heart, we can easily take flippant comments and haphazard looks personally.

But that's a recipe for disaster.

When my stepdaughter was younger, I was overly sensitive to everything she said to me. One day we were talking about how she liked her mom to French-braid her hair and she said, “Why can’t you French-braid my hair? I think it’s weird that you don’t know how.”

Well, that was enough to hurt my feelings. I couldn’t recognize the fact that she wanted me to be more involved in her life and this was something we could do together. Instead, I took it as a personal attack.

The stepmom role is a complicated one but sometimes we make it harder because of our insecurities. We think we’ll never measure up to their biological mom and we compete with her and compare ourselves constantly, always coming up short.

If we learn to spend more time improving upon who we are already, we’ll be a better stepparent. And if our stepchild can’t accept us that way, that’s okay. God created each of us as a unique person.

We might be criticized for being someone different than our stepchild understands. Perhaps she can’t accept our short hair because her mom wears her hair long. Or maybe our stepchild doesn’t understand why we work from home when her mom leaves the house every day at 6:00 a.m. for a corporate job.

But, if we’re secure in who we are, it won’t bother us when our stepchild questions our choices. Our natural reaction becomes: I won’t take that comment personally or get defensive. I will accept her thoughts as her own, even if they’re different from mine.

Stepfamily authority Ron L. Deal says it best in his book, The Smart Stepfamily: “Stepparents cannot afford to be insecure. Stepfamilies were not made for the emotionally fragile.”

It’s easy to be overly sensitive to our stepchildren’s comments, particularly through the holidays. But as we become more confident and at peace with ourselves, we’re better equipped to foster a healthy stepparenting relationship, allowing critical or judgmental comments to slide right past us.

Will you adopt the holiday mantra: don't take it personally? How might that influence your step-relationships?

Related Posts:

Seven Tips for Finding Balance in the Midst of Holiday Chaos

What is our Role as a Stepparent?

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