Doris Wild Helmering is a nationally known marriage and relationship counselor, weight loss expert, television and radio personality, and business management coach. She is author of nine books, 1,200 newspaper columns, six e-booklets, and has written for Reader’s Digest, Redbook, Self, and Scripps Howard News Service. She has been a guest on OPRAH, Good Morning America, and CNN. She received the Alumni Merit Award from St. Louis University for advancing the field of psychotherapy and the Woman of Achievement Award from Soroptimist International. She was awarded clinical status in the American Group Psychotherapy Association and the International Transactional Analysis Association.

You can visit her website at: www.doriswildhelmering.com .

Tags: stepchildren | counseling | family | parenting

Stepchildren Rough Up the Water

By    |   Wednesday, 19 September 2018 04:33 PM

Over the years I've seen many marriages fractured because the husband and wife have few skills for dealing with the problems that arise with having stepchildren.

Julie and Jim have been married for seven years. They have no children together but Jim has two children, ages 12 and 14, by his former wife. Jim complains to me that nothing his children do is right in the eyes of his wife. He thinks Julie is too demanding and critical.

Julie fights back by saying that the boys are disrespectful to her. They never say hello, goodbye, or thank-you. They rarely share information about their lives and when she asks a question they either don't answer or give a minimal response. They leave their clothes and shoes all over the place, make messes in the kitchen, and resist even the simplest chores, like emptying out the dishwasher or helping to cut the grass.

For seven years the boys have stayed with Julie and Jim every other weekend. Julie has cooked for them, entertained them, picked up after them, shopped for them, and made a big deal out of their birthdays, but rarely does she get a thank-you from them or from Jim.

Julie thinks her husband is too passive with his ex-wife. She often calls on Jim to take the boys when she leaves town for a weekend. Because Jim wants to be with his children he almost always says yes.

The problem is he rarely checks with Julie first. This has led to numerous fights and bad feelings.

Julie is also angry because she feels Jim is a soft touch when it comes to buying extras for his sons. Because she and Jim put their earnings together, she feels it's not fair that part of the money she earns is spent on the boys. And Julie also senses that Jim wants to keep the boys to himself and doesn't want her to have too close a relationship with them.

Lately the boys have resisted coming over on Jim's designated weekends. Jim blames Julie because of the unfriendly atmosphere in the house.

When it comes to the children, Jim sees Julie as the persecutor and his sons as the victims. Julie, on the other hand, sees the boys and Jim as persecutors and herself as the victim. I, as the therapist, see Jim, Julie, and the boys as both persecutors and victims.

The boys are persecutors when they ignore Julie and don't pick up after themselves. They are victims because they must live in a hostile environment which is only partly due to their behavior.

Jim is a persecutor when he makes plans with his ex-wife without consulting Julie He's also a persecutor when he doesn't discipline his children and insist they show respect for his wife.

On the other hand, Jim's a victim because when he gets the parental urge to treat his boys Julie puts him through the third degree. He's also a victim because Julie frequently expects him to side with her against his sons.

Julie is a persecutor when she refuses to understand that parents sometimes want to buy things for their children without having to account for the money. She's also a persecutor when she fails to acknowledge that Jim's boys are children and children are going to make messes and resist doing chores.

At the same time, she's a victim of their messiness and rude behavior. She's also a victim when Jim plans her weekend without consulting her.

Here are some solutions for these far too common problems with step-children:

  1. Sit down with your mate and agree on what you both expect of the children
    when they're at your house. Should they make their own beds? Clean up dirty dishes? Put away their clothes? Establish standards. Then both of you enforce the rules.
     
  2. Decide how much money you will spend on the children each month in addition to child support payments. Stick to the agreement.
     
  3. Always check with your spouse before making plans regarding your children- no matter what.
     
  4. Compliment your spouse in front of your children. You might say, "Great meal you prepared for us" or "Thanks for getting the hockey tickets."
     
  5. Encourage your children to thank your spouse for cleaning their room, taking them swimming or making their favorite dessert.
     
  6. Make the children aware that their stepparent is also contributing to pay for their camp or swimming lessons.
     
  7. Always make sure that your chil­dren remember your spouse on his or her birthday, as well as Father's Day or Mother's Day. All stepparents deserve this kind of recognition for the many hours of their lives they give because they are stepparents.
     
  8. Examine how you feel when your spouse becomes emotionally close to your children. If you start to feel jealous, don't act on the jealousy. Understand that a good relationship between your children and your mate is a gift to your children.
     
  9. Be respectful of your spouse in front of your children and they, too, will learn to be respectful. And when they're not, confront them.

The very problems that plague natural parents as they are raising their children plague a parent and stepparent. But the parent and stepparent run a greater risk of becoming polarized. They often wind up fighting each other instead of seeing that they can solve their problems - if they pull together as a team.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World,” “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide,” and “Thin Becomes You” at Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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Over the years I've seen many marriages fractured because the husband and wife have few skills for dealing with the problems that arise with having stepchildren.
stepchildren, counseling, family, parenting
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2018-33-19
Wednesday, 19 September 2018 04:33 PM
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