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Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.
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nightmare is not her problem to solve:
You are the stepmom to kids who not only don't
listen, but threaten to go back to the other parent at the mere mention of
expectations. When you complain to your partner - their father, he shrugs it
off, not wanting to upset the apple-cart and risk losing precious time with his
These situations often involve separated
parents who have poor to limited or no ability to communicate between
themselves. It is likely that their relationship as a couple was a disaster and
that court or the threat of court figured prominently in their settlement.
Dad is either limited in his parenting
abilities or is afraid that his kids won't see him if he doesn't give way to
their demands. Either way, dad tries to either be an ostrich and put his head in
the sand to avoid the situation or tries to befriend the kids, thinking that the
kids will like "Uncle Dad" and thus behave better.
Kids in these situations have long since
learned to exploit the parental conflict to get what they want. Instead of
expectations they have things - toys and gadgets. They may also have no
meaningful curfews or consequences to hold them accountable.
The stepmom is at risk of being set up as the
wicked witch for ratting out the kids, spoiling everyone's' fun and being a pain
in the butt to her partner. Truth is, she may be the most distressed and may be
the only one to see the situation for what it is - a bigger train wreck waiting
Kids who are out of control and who can pit
their parents against each other are at risk of school failure, early onset
sexual behavior, pregnancy, drug alcohol abuse and trouble with the law. As they
disrespect their stepparent and get away with murder at home, they then try out
their misguided skills and beliefs outside the home at school, workplace and
This is actually a pretty common scenario and
if there is a call for counseling, it is usually by the stepmom who is fed up
with the situation and feeling unsupported by their partner with spoiled kids
running roughshod over them both. Trouble is, without both bio-parents on board,
the likelihood of turning things around well are limited.
In order to make a good difference in these
situations and the lives of these children, both parents must learn to cooperate
and support each other as parents lest the kids continue to divide and conquer.
Trouble is, as the stepmom takes on the task of calling people out and seeking
to improve matters, all eyes are on her as an agitator. She becomes the source
of conflict and she feels like she is steering a sinking ship.
The truth of the matter is, these are not her
kids and this is not her responsibility even though she becomes a victim of the
Stepmom, you have two options: leave or step
back and let the chips fall where they may.
Assuming you step back and let the chips fall
where they may, the real trick is to redirect any issues or expectations with
regards to your partner's children, to your partner. Do not take responsibility
for his children because in so doing, he gets to avoid it.
When he finally gets overwhelmed and asks for
your advice, don't get sucked into rescuing him!
The real trick to facilitating change here is
to leave him wrestling with these problems of his own creation. Unless he truly
feels there to be an issue from which he cannot escape, he will not be motivated
to address it. You rescue, he is relieved and nothing changes.
Eventually he has to come to realize that
counseling is a must for him and his former partner and that together they must
resolve the situation.
You as stepmom continuing your involvement in
their dynamic only serves to keep the heat off them and keep it upon yourself.
Want to feel better? Take a bath, read a book,
go for a walk, get a manicure, do anything but take on your partner's
responsibility. As you disengage from the turmoil, you leave it for your partner
If you don't have the stomach for this, then
you may have to consider leaving as an option and that too may trigger a crisis
to raise your partner's profile in terms of taking the situation seriously. But
still, the problem with his kids is his to solve.
Tough medicine for tough situations.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
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