Have you wanted your parents and/or in–laws to better understand the complexity of your stepfamily life? Have your parents and/or in-laws said remarks or behaved in ways, which have caused hurt, discomfort or confusion? Personally, I have been in this position and feel that we need everyone in our families to develop a good appreciation for the unique nature of stepfamilies. This might then help to change some of the clumsy words or decisions made by those in our extended families.
The Stepfamily is complex to say the least. Stepfamilies commence their life cycle from a place of grief and there are new and more established relationships to navigate. Juggling the needs and wishes of everyone involved including biology parents, stepparents and children is often fraught with difficulties. Emotions move between heightened states of frustration and sadness on a frequent basis. When you think everything is sorted you might have the rug pulled out from underneath you and another challenge (or the same) rears its head. If there was anything I wanted my parents and in-laws to understand it would be the words you have just read
Let me elaborate:
- Stepfamilies start from a place of grief. Even though the new couple is rejoicing in finding each other and looking forward to a future together, they will inevitably be met with the grief of the children and/or the ex-spouses. This grief can present in the form of rejection, sadness, anger, disapproval, clinginess, tantrums and more. These emotional states greatly influence the beginning stages of stepfamily life. Hence, stepfamilies are dealing with grief right from the very onset. This is often very disheartening for the new couple as they miss out on the ‘honeymoon phase.’
- Stepfamilies are not like first time families and never will be! Striving for a sense of unity and peace are certainly ideal for any family. Yet, for some stepfamilies this can be very difficult to reach and a struggle to maintain. Stepfamilies are made up of lays of different histories, personalities and more times than not unfinished business. These threads can become knotted, entangled and woven into many, many different shapes and forms. Sometimes you never know where things will end up. Uncertainty and unpredictability can be integral to stepfamily life. Not all stepfamilies experience on-going struggle, they are the exception.
If I could give one piece of advice to all of our parents and in-laws it would be:
“Offer your daughter/daughter-in-law unconditional support and reassurance. Consider her feelings and maybe take a moment to walk in their shoes. You don’t have to understand the depths of the relationships and personalities within the stepfamily to offer sincere, heart-felt and free of judgement support. Giving your daughter/daughter-in-law a safe haven to retreat will be one of biggest gifts you can give her. This retreat could be through your kind words or a comfortable place to visit. In her stepfamily she feels like the outsider so reminding her that she is valued and cared for is very, very important.’
Have you needed to educate your parents/in laws too? How have they reacted? What has been the biggest success?
I would love to hear from you and how you have overcome any challenges within your extended family. You can comment below or head on over to my facebook group Amazing Stepmum Support Group and share your insights there. You are Amazing!!
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