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Why stepmothers need more support

by Dore Frances, IEC, MA, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Stepchildren are often the main focus of a step-family.

Natural parents and stepparents will go to great lengths to accommodate the needs and desires of the children.

This is understandable, because they want the children to quickly settle into the new family arrangement and to feel secure and wanted. But what about stepmothers?

1. Relationship with the former spouse

Stepmothers are sometimes viewed with suspicion and jealousy by the natural mother of the stepchildren.

The mother may make her feelings evident by refusing to discuss any parenting decisions or issues with the stepmother, insisting on speaking to just the father.

She may even refuse to accept the positive influence the stepmother has in her children's lives, telling them that they do not have to listen to their stepmother, as she is not the "real" parent. It is very hurtful for stepmothers to be treated in such a way, especially when they have built up a good relationship with their spouse's children. They will need a lot of support to overcome such childish tactics and to rise above this sort of behavior.

2. Stepmothers are often undervalued

A very important reason why stepmothers need more support is because their role within the family is often greatly undervalued. The mother and father are usually given the credit for good traits found in their children. Sometimes, it is the stepmother who has helped to put them there!

She may have to work harder to earn the love and respect that are automatically accorded the natural

parents. She may also feel the need to prove herself and her true worth to the stepchildren. This is not an easy task.

3. Stepmothers need a helping hand

Stepmothers are all too often left to find their own way in the step-family arrangement. For women who do not have any children of their own, this can be an overwhelming task. They will not necessarily have the parenting skills required to take permanent or even temporary care of their spouse's children and this can make them afraid of taking on any parenting role at all.

In this situation, it is primarily the husband's job to talk to his wife about the role that she will be taking.

Does she need to learn more about how to cook for children? Does she know how to bathe children? Will she be putting the children to bed? What is their usual bedtime routine? All of these parenting skills may come easily to natural mothers and fathers, but they may not for stepmothers.

4. The stepmother has feelings too

Parents often do all they can to preserve the feelings of their children, however, the feelings of the stepmother may be trampled upon and ignored time and time again.

This will only lead to a rift in the family and not a closer relationship between the husband, wife and children.

The wife has a very special role to play in the family.

When she is also a stepmother, she still deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. That means that when the stepchildren are disrespectful and rude towards her, the father needs to make sure they apologize to their stepmother. Tolerating such behavior will not teach them how to respect their stepmother.

In conclusion, the role of stepmothers is often a thankless one. It is not easy to deal with a role that brings little to no recognition. With help of the husband and co-operation from the stepchildren, the true worth of stepmothers can be realized.

Dore Frances, IEC, MA, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:Dore@DoreFrances.com.
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