How can I help my stepson?
I am a Step Mom to a 7 year old boy. I have been in his life for over 3 years. Things have been going well until 2 months. His Mom and Dad have joint custody and joint guardianship. His Dad and I only see him 2 days a week and every other weekend( he only sleeps over 4 days a month ).The child has a 2 year old half sister that lives with his dad and I. After asking the boy’s mom if we could see him more she has become very angry and calls the police on a regular basis. The police have never contacted us as there is no real reason to. The boy has expressed how sad he is that his mom is so mad at his dad. The boy has told us all that he wants to spend more time with his dad and now feels like he is betraying his mom. How can I help the child not feel bad for his feelings? signed, tryinghard, age 32
Dear Tryinghard, You are in a difficult situation. The child is lucky to have you and his Dad that care enough to want to spend more time with him. Here are some things and ideas for you to consider.
1. The best person to explain some of the suggestions I have is the Father of the child. Since you are the Step Mom it is important to respect certain boundaries and allow the biological parent to handle most issues along this line. With that said the most important thing that you and your husband can do from now on is to NEVER bad mouth the child’s Mother in any way, shape, or form in front of the child. You and your husband can have private discussions about her and her ridiculous behavior but it should never be able to be heard by the child.
2. You and your husband (it would be better if just the Father has this talk with the child on a one to one basis) could both sit down with the boy and tell him that even though he wants to spend more time with you the fact of the matter is that the quality of the time spent together is much more important than the length of time. You could improve the quality of time versus the quantity of time spent with him. Ask him when he is with you what are some special things he would like to do once in awhile to make his time with you more special. Have some suggestions of your own to offer and try to choose a visit or two to do some extra special things just for him. Let him have some say so in what he wants to do.
3. Don’t put him in a position where he feels he has to choose between the Father and the Mother. Divided loyalties are very common in stepfamilies and some of that you cannot control. You cannot control the Mother of the child or her behaviors towards you or this situation in general. Don’t even try to change her or how she does things. You can only change your reactions and behaviors and no one else’s.
4. When the child does express his sadness, you can listen for a few minutes and don’t encourage the sadness in anyway. Direct his attention to something else. State that what you all do together as a family is more important than how often you do things. tell him that it is better to just enjoy the time spent together rather than being angry or sad over not having more time. Parents can direct a child’s thinking and focus very easily and that is what you and your husband must do. He senses when you agree with him and what he is saying and he may do a lot of this just to get extra attention from you. Don’t encourage that behavior at all.
It is what it is. You cannot control the other side of the situation so focus on what you can control. Focus on the time you do have together and make that time be real family time with some special moments along the way. Compliment the child’s Mother to him if at all possible. Try to see things from her point of view and say something like “Your Mom loves you so much and she wants to also spend as much time as possible with you so let’s not try to change that and let’s just be together and enjoy the time we do have.” Then change the subject and redirect the child’s attention to something on a positive note. Don’t give him too much attention when he brings up that he is sad and wants more time – he may be getting a payoff from this behavior without you realizing it. Redirect him and yourself at the same time.
If you haven’t read all of our information for Stepfamilies please take some time and read our articles. I feel confident you will find some useful information that can help you along the way.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.