Time With Stepchildren

Pandemic Solutions for the Stepfamily


If you want to find out what’s REALLY going on in your cozy corner of the world, ask a stepmom.  We’ve just got a “knack”.  We are keen, wildly discerning, and we just…know.  Words don’t have to be spoken for us to feel something is off kilter.  We like being prepared, too.  Surprises might be fun at your nine-year-old’s birthday party, but they aren’t any fun to most of us.  Speaking as a stepmom, I know this to be true. This quarantine has been full of more surprises than I can list right now.  But speaking of lists, we created one that you might find helpful in this maddening season.  We HOPE we don’t have to refer to it too often in the future, but should we need to, here are 10 Pandemic Solutions with the Stepfamily in mind.

  1. Notice What’s Happening. – Before you say you don’t have time for the news or you just don’t like watching the news, you MUST stay informed.  There’s just no easy way to break it to you.  We MUST be aware of what’s going on around us.  Little did we know what was happening on the other side of the world would cause millions to file for unemployment.  Little did we know that what was going on in a time zone 12 hours ahead of us would deplete our supply of paper goods at the local Piggly Wiggly.  We had some signs, though.  You can check out the full list of 25 pandemic signs at the link below, but here are some to be aware of should there be a “next” time: Listen for mayors in major cities discussing pandemic plans.  Listen to what those plans actually are.  Peruse the latest TED talk topics as a supplement to news topics.  Pay attention to the latest popular discoveries at our top accredited universities.  https://www.genengnews.com/a-lists/blinking-red-25-missed-pandemic-warning-signs/
  2. Be mindful. – Stay aware.  It’s easy to go on autopilot as we navigate through the day with so much on our minds.  Who is going to take Jack to baseball? When is the next parent-teacher conference? Did the kids like what I packed for lunch? Do we help Susan buy her mom some flowers for Mother’s Day? We already have so much swirling through our brains. But to stay aware, we MUST practice mindfulness in all situations.  Be present.  https://psychcentral.com/blog/7-easy-ways-to-be-mindful-every-day/
  3. Take The Emotion Out. – When we first hear the news about school closures and quarantine requirements, we might want to crawl into a fetal position under our weighted blankets.  I know this hasn’t been the best of times for many of us.  I humbly will tell you that the tension has been very high at our home as well.  I did find peace when I forced myself to reframe my thoughts and not look at this forced time together through an emotional filter. We can only do what we are capable of doing, which leads me to No. 4.  https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/how-to-control-your-emotions-so-your-emotions-dont-control-you.html
  4. Do What You CAN Do, Shelf What You Can’t – Custody agreements might not be gospel when it comes to pandemics.  I am not an attorney so I’ll leave that to the experts, but I do know the events of the last couple months are causing some interesting conversations in Family Law.  That being said, assess what you, your husband, the biological mom, and the stepdad can do separately and together.  A good time to discuss a plan of action for times like this is when things are calm as opposed to chaotic.  It will be beneficial to EVERY member of the family if mature and civil conversations can happen about where the child will reside during the quarantine, who is responsible for schooling, who is responsible for checking homework, who is going to maintain the home, etc. https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/6-ways-to-stop-worrying-about-things-you-cant-control.html
  5. Commit Your Plan To Paper – As soon as you devise your emergency plan, type it out or email it to all family members as a guide.  This will help all of you to have a guide and directions should we find ourselves facing these issues again.  https://www.extendoffice.com/documents/excel/4557-excel-create-to-do-list.html
  6. Choose Your Words Wisely – During this unsettling time, emotions are all over the place.  We are hanging out 24-7 with teens going through major hormone changes, adolescents who need a lot of attention and supervision, and spouses who wonder why we have to run everything by the “ex”.  Then someone has the NERVE to tell us they are tired of having chicken and pasta for dinner.  We feel our blood pressure rise and we can hear our heartbeat in our ears.  Before we blurt out heated words like “starve” and “spoiled”, we need to check ourselves.  Who’s the adult here? We are.  Avoid put-downs and demeaning language.  We need to guard our tongues and our voices.  “Raise your words, not your voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” ~ Rumi https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/26-brilliant-quotes-on-the-super-power-of-words.html
  7. When You Must Be Harsh, Be Careful – There are times when we have to discipline.  There are circumstances when a raised voice is the only voice that gets attention.  Don’t be afraid of discipline and rules. Kids and teens actually like rules.  It makes them feel safe and loved.  We have seen time and again young people respond well to household chores.  Rules and structure can provide comfort by boosting self-esteem.  It also is respectful for all members of the family to know what is expected of them.  Less misunderstandings and hurt feelings occur when the role of each family member is determined. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/discipline.html
  8. Where To Go From Here? – So you said it.  The words just tumbled out of your mouth before you could reign them in.  Or maybe YOU were the emotional punching bag today and you are left feeling drained and anxious.  Being around each other SO MUCH right now puts all of our lives under a microscope.  We see hurt reflected back at us. The BEST thing you can do in those moments is FORGIVE. Saying “I’m Sorry” with a repentant heart can help your relationship to heal, it can fight depression, and it can improve your blood pressure.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
  9. Lead Your Home Your children are watching you during this time of heightened stress.  They are watching how you handle stress and conflict, and they will model what they were taught when they have their own families.  Follow the Four C’s of Parenting: Care, Be Consistent, Allow Choices, and teach Consequences of those choices.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/parenting
  10. Let It Be – Once of the most powerful prayers of modern time starts with, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”. This old prayer by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr can be applied to the stepfamily and all we face together.  It also can be applied to this pandemic.  Some things we can change, some we can’t, and may we understand that critical difference.  https://www.britannica.com/biography/Reinhold-Niebuhr

Lynnette R. Flatt/Dr. Jeannette Lofas

The Stepfamily Foundation

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