It’s natural to wonder why kids make bad choices, or what causes them to feel a certain way. A child in crisis might be confused by their actions, unable to communicate feelings they have yet to explore and understand.
As a parent, that’s hard to watch. We want to fix things for our kids, but life doesn’t always work like that. Feelings and perceptions after a divorce are intense. When stepparents enter the picture, life becomes even more complex for children. It’s easy to feel helpless when kids act out or make dangerous choices. You begin to realize their feelings and choices aren’t in your control at all.
Looking back …
I met my stepchildren when I was 21 years old; they were 3 and 4. I didn’t know anything about raising kids, even though I “knew everything.” I felt confident (naively) that I had a good grasp on life. I married Mr. Right with an attitude of: how hard can it be?
Ten years later, I’ve come to realize that parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. If you’re a parent, you probably know the feeling. I wasn’t prepared for the hard times to feel so personal, as if the children I cared for were attacking me and pushing me away. Approaching difficult situations with an objective mindset seemed impossible. Supposedly, I was the mature one, but some days, it didn’t feel like that.
Luckily, practice and patience has helped me grow up – and I believe in the mantra, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” My family has come a long way in developing our relationships with one another.
Hope in hard times
If you’re facing difficult behaviors or emotions in a blended family, I’ve found the best reaction is action. Ask yourself questions like:
- What can I do to help?
- Where can I turn for advice?
- When will I make time to work on this?
- How does my behavior affect what’s happening?
- Who else in our network can support a family member in crisis?
Explore the options from an objective standpoint; I’d recommend a good night’s sleep first. Also, remember growing up is hard – your children are not adults yet. Their minds are still developing.
Soul-searching in a time of crisis often requires humbling yourself. You may realize an idea you had didn’t work. You might see, for the first time, the impact your personal flaws have on your husband and kids.
This will not be easy.
But as time passes, you will be able to look back and see how far you’ve come, as a person and as a family. You will look forward and feel stronger from the difficult situations you have already overcome. Reflect on what happened – and then leave guilt behind you, where it belongs. Keep your focus forward.
What questions can you add to the list above? Please share in the comments below.