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Divorce Blog

Avoid being the Stepzilla in your Blended Family

By Karen Stewart

Most children are familiar with the Cinderella story about a girl whose evil step-mother restricts her from attending the Royal Ball; the heartless queen who casts Snow White to the forest to be murdered because she was claimed as the fairest in the land; or Mother Gothel from Tangled who maliciously suckled Rapunzel’s youth.

StepzillaThe picture of a stepmother is not painted with bright pastels but with a paintbrush dipped in black. It is interesting that these are usually the first images of a stepmother that children are introduced to and more often than not, children carry these perceptions into reality. For the step-mom, as much as they do their best to rise about the “Cinderella” syndrome, it is harder than you think. Simply marrying the “father” in itself can set the stage for resentment and jealousy.

If this accusation is true, stepmothers, in reality, have a high mountain to climb to rid that image of the evil stepmother. As a stepmother myself, I reflected on how my husband (their father) and I proved that I am not any of the Disney evil stepmothers that are described above.

There are so many reasons that people get divorced. I have heard about everything and of course, some reasons stand out more than others. The one I hear all too often is the inability to integrate families successfully. Second marriages actually have a higher chance of failing than first marriages. Certainly, some of the reason is that the fact that the parties may simply be set in their ways but it can also be complicated by the challenge of being a stepparent.

Once couples come to see me, it is too late. However, there are things that you can do when you are entering a marriage and about to become a stepparent/ stepmother:

  • Make sure that you and your new husband are on the same page with regards to priorities for the family
  • Discuss in advance with your husband how you will handle disputes around parenting
  • Do not mother – mentor
  • Do not push yourself on them – give them space and time to come to you
  • Do not ever bad mouth their mother – even if your husband does
  • Do not bad mouth his kids – ever
  • You can discuss issues but never criticize the kids
  • Be interested in them and understand they are not that interested in you — until maybe many years later
  • Know you will be ok but not likely great
  • Ensure that they feel welcome in your house
  • Give them space and time with their dad
  • Find something you can do with them and invite them to participate
  • Tell them how great they are but do it from the heart and do not expect it back
  • Make them dinner and ensure you treat them special on their birthdays
  • If you have kids ensure you treat them all the same – as best you can. Clearly, you will feel differently about your own but be very careful to not be over.
  • Your kids (if you have them) will come first but be careful to not turn that into actions

How you enter a family that has been through a divorce will set the stage for your future in that relationship. Follow these tips and eventually, you will be seen as the good witch instead of the wicked witch of the west.