Additional Points to Consider for Step-Parenting

Do you know what a pot-bound plant is?

When a plant is growing in a particular pot, it keeps growing but its environment, the pot, does not grow with it. The plant gets to a certain point and then becomes what is called “pot bound”. The roots just keep going round and fill up the whole pot. They become more and more rigid. They cannot spread out in that cramped environment. When you break open the old pot and replant the plant in a bigger pot or in the garden the plant can stretch out and grow much bigger.

A stepfamily, according to Sidra Stone—who came up with this perfect metaphor—is like breaking the old pots open and giving the family members, especially the children, a place to grow which is much bigger.

stepparenting - heartWith this new, unfamiliar and bigger space come a lot of adjustments. The plants need to get used to the new soil. If loving gardeners make sure the new soil is rich and fertile and full of nutrients, the plants are more likely to do well in the new environment.

These days, who doesn’t know someone who is part of a stepfamily? In 2011in Canada, there were 464,335 “melted families”. This represents more than 10% of Canadian families with children. Melted families are becoming increasingly complex. In 1995, the simple stepfamilies—in which all the children were the children of one of the spouses only—were still in the majority. Today, complex stepfamilies with children from both spouses are as common or even in the majority.

Stepparenting 7

In my blog “Points to Consider for Parenting” on September 1st, I elaborated on four aspects of parenting which can help us to be more successful parents if we are aware of them:

  1. The Adults in the Family Should Be True Partners in Parenting
  1. Children Carry Our Disowned Selves; They Show Us What We Tend to Judge and Dislike
  1. Be Aware of the Energetic Linkage: Who is bonded into Whom?
  1. Ask, What Does This Parenting Situation Have to Teach Me?

Stepparenting 1

Here are two additional points to consider particularly for stepparenting:

  1. You Are the Parent of Your Own Children

Don’t try to be the disciplining parent for your stepchildren, especially if they still have two biological parents. It’s impossible and bound to fail. Don’t expect to take the part of their mother or father. There is no such thing as “just” being the stepparent. It is an important and enriching experience for everybody involved. Yet different guidelines apply for the stepparent than apply for the parent. When the parent is not taking charge of a situation, it can understandably be challenging for the stepparent to hold back.

It is therefore important for each parent to step into your parenting role when it comes to your own biological children. It is your responsibility to parent your children. Leaving it up to the stepparent to do the disciplining or activities that you do not enjoy is unfair to everybody. Communicate clearly with your partner what you need from him or her. This can mean that you—or your partner—need to step up and become a more confident or involved parent.

Stepparenting POINT 5 - Step up to parent

  1. Vulnerability

When old family systems are dissolved and we move from being a couple to being parents or stepparents, from having no siblings or full siblings to suddenly having stepsiblings, everybody is vulnerable and insecure: the adults as well as the children. Everybody is faced with a new situation and adjustments while navigating their own feelings and experiences.

We need to be aware of our vulnerability and this vulnerability has to be available between the partners. We usually live in our power selves of pusher or rational mind or assertive self and so on, which exist to protect our vulnerability. These power selves are useful for our survival but can prevent real connections.

Vulnerability gives us the option to be with somebody without all the defences and guards. It allows us to be authentic and to feel and communicate all feelings. When things happen in the parenting situation, it allows us then to come to our partner and express how we truly feel and to work out a solution together. If we are not able to do that, we might end up attacking our partner or his or her child because we are not aware of our own vulnerability in a situation. Our power selves jump in and take control. Communicating the vulnerability is the first step towards aligning with your partner. The next big step is to bring this same open communication to the children or stepchildren instead of coming from a place of power all the time. The interactions can then become deep sensitive connections with them, a totally different quality of interactions than when we come from our power selves.

Another vulnerability that comes into play is the new set of in-laws for each partner. In the case of a second or third marriage, we have even lost one set of in-laws and siblings-in-laws from the previous relationship and we need to navigate the new rules and ways of the new in-laws. The new in-laws might be struggling just in the same way with the changes which come up. They might fear losing the contact with their son or daughter and with their grandchildren, now that a new person has come into the picture. It is a situation which brings up lots of vulnerabilities, insecurities and fears. Be loving and kind with yourself and those around you as you are going through those changes.

Stepparenting POINT 6 - Vulnerability

When the parents choose to parent consciously, both stepping up to be involved parents who are aware of vulnerabilities among the family members and ready to address them, the conditions are ideal for new growth. Children can spread out to make new experiences and to grow strong roots in their new and more expansive environment, like pot bound plants that are being replanted in larger pots.

Angelika

Conscious Parenting & Life Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

Points to Consider for Parenting

Traveling in Europe and comparing parenting styles in Great Britain and Germany to Canada reminded me of how different parenting is from culture to culture.

The examples of British parenting we saw were gentle reminders of manners, sometimes interlaced with humour. Yet, the children seem to know exactly that something said in a sarcastic or humorous way still has to be taken seriously.

German parenting is more direct and humourless. German parents navigate an interesting balance between granting their children a lot of individuality and freedom—much more than we do in Canada—and yet being quite outright, outspoken and direct when it comes to enforcing rules.

German parents are reluctant to encourage kids to do something they are not in the mood for. Your five-year-old does not want to give grandma a hug and kiss? That’s okay. Your eight-year-old does not want to join in the games at the birthday party because he thinks it’s “blöd” (stupid)? That’s okay. Your twelve-year-old does not want to join the family for dinner even though relatives are over? That’s okay. Your sixteen-year-old does not want to come on vacation with his/her parents? That’s okay.

Hardly ever are children encouraged to put the needs of others or a group over their own individual needs and wants. I suspect that is a result of the Nazi time in which obedience and conformity was put above else. As so often in history an entire nation has done an 180˚ turn. Yet, when children cross “the line”, whatever that line in each individual case and each individual parent is, the parent can get very direct, authoritative and will raise their voice.

Clearly each country or culture has different values for parenting. What seems right in one culture might be frowned upon in another. I was wondering if there are any common points independent of the culture that one might want to consider for parenting and/or step-parenting.

Parenting 1

Children change the dynamics of every partnership greatly. When a new baby is born or when step-children enter into the picture, the self contained unit of the two grown-ups loving each other or the previous family system break open to include one or more other people. If we are not aware of the changing dynamics and in touch with our own feelings and fears, conflicts are inevitable. Instead of bringing more joy and growth, parenting then becomes a burden for the relationship.

Here are some points to consider for parenting based on Hal and Sidra Stone’s work, which I believe might be applicable in many different parts of the world:

  1. Acceptance of the Partnering Model for Parenting

Partnering is a non-hierarchical model of parenting. In partnering, both partners are equally involved in all areas. In partnering everything is a joint venture. There is a sense of a no-fault kind of relationship, instead of blaming the other parent. Each event brings with it a new learning. Both partners should be sharing the authority, the responsibility, and the power in the relationship to the children as well as to each other.

The basic connection in the family system must be between the two people in charge, the couple. Children “smell” very quickly when the connection between the parents isn’t working and are naturally going to take advantage of that fundamental flaw in the family system. Dynamics then begin to happen that don’t work well for the family.

For each partner that means to look at the children and step-children from your partner’s eyes. You do not necessarily need to agree with your partner but you need to understand where he or she is coming from. You need to be able to see and feel their point of view. Learn to honour the viewpoint of your partner, no matter how different it is, because there is a teaching there for us. It is an opportunity to integrate our disowned selves, the traits we don’t like about ourselves and others.

Parenting POINT 1 - Make sure adults

  1. Primary and Disowned Selves, Opposites & Polarization

The Primary Selves are the group of selves who make up our identity, or who we are identified with. The Disowned Selves are the ones we have had to drop because we learned they are not good to have. We usually treasure our primary selves and are attached to them (“That’s just how I am”); the disowned selves we don’t like. The stepchildren, new in-laws, and other people in our life – even the pets—are going to carry our disowned selves and show us what we tend to judge and dislike.

Those family members show us the opposites which we are not comfortable with and we often even polarize into those opposites further as we live and interact together.

For example, if I am quite neat and my child or stepchild is a bit sloppy, the child might polarize into being even messier while I become more paranoid about cleaning and tidying up. The child is taking on my messy energy that I—and possibly everybody in the house—have disowned. However, once they move out, we might find that living on their own, they have quite a neat household.

If I am identified with cleanliness, I might judge the person very strongly for living in a mess. Judgements give us the keys to our primary and our disowned selves. When you feel yourself judging other family members, remind yourself that the judgments give you a feedback about yourself and the parts of yourself that you disown.

Parenting POINT 2 - Children carry disowned

  1. Energetic Linkage

Tune in to find out who is bonded into whom in the family. What I mean by that is notice who feels close to whom and how the bonding happens. Are the energies truly flowing between you and your partner, or perhaps you and your favourite child? Where the real warmth is shows us the bonding patterns in a family. These bonding patterns are always going on underneath. Be aware of them and consciously make sure the main bond is between you and your partner. Enough time and opportunities to maintain the bond between the couple who are the core unit of the family are very important for the entire system and for successful parenting.

Parenting POINT 3 - Be aware

  1. Life is a Teacher

Trust that challenges are there to be worked through. You always have the choice to step back and ask, what is the teaching or meaning of what comes up? Life, illness, relationships and parenting are each a teacher for us to learn to become more whole. Our partner can always trust that we are willing to work something out, when we honestly ask the question, what does this parenting situation have to teach me?

Parenting POINT 4 - Ask what does

Angelika

Conscious Parenting & Life Coaching

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

905-286-9466

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.