- Liza Hahn, MS, Yoga Therapist-IT, LPC-IT
The Joys and Challenges of Step-Parenthood: Embracing the 2nd Place Prize
In my early thirties, a five-foot, 90-pound teenage boy came into my life.
N was twelve years old, starting sixth grade and full of charisma. I had been dating his dad for awhile before we felt it was the right time for N and I to meet. I was excited and nervous to meet the boy that my now-husband talked so fondly about, recalling memories of them going to monster truck rallies and discovering new music together. The day we met, I looked and felt like I was going to the biggest job interview of my life. I was sweaty, changed outfits three times, practiced what I would say, and paced around the house.
As a former school counselor and from a blended family, I was very aware of the importance a healthy step-relationship is for the whole family and, most importantly, for the kiddo; the kid who not only suffered from their parents’ divorce, but now with the changing dynamics of their immediate family. Having this knowledge upfront was a huge advantage for me in navigating the ups and downs of being a step-mom. However, when it comes to intense emotions, knowledge can fly out the window real fast.
I highly recommend for anyone in my shoes that you research being a step-parent, talk with others who have been there, find a good therapist, and do your own self-care work. This way you will have a stable foundation for yourself (and your spouse and your kids) in facing the challenges that will eventually arise.
I was blessed to have a positive connection with N right away. We loved the same music, enjoyed similar movies and communicated easily. As a growing teen boy, I understood why he would withdraw to play video games or eat every item of food in the house. As he got older, being a step-mom became more challenging. I would get caught up in the conflicts he had with his dad and of course heard the all-too-familiar, "You can't tell me what to do, you’re not my mother!" He was right; I, indeed, was not his mother and would have never expected N to view me in this way. His mother was a caring, engaged woman, who was the apple of N's eye.
My hope was to be an additional female "go-to" who would do my best to provide a comfortable home, no matter when N was there, role model respectful communication, and give love to the best of my ability.
Along the way, I made mistakes. I got frustrated and took it out on my husband, I made judgments about his parenting decisions and I internalized my feelings of self-doubt into depression and anxiety. For awhile, I distanced myself from N so I would not say or do anything that would jeopardize our relationship; It meant too much to me.
In May, N graduated from college with a major in Mathematics. As I stood with all of the other family members, all I felt was pride and immense love. N is a compassionate, smart, insightful and creative young man, and I hope that I have had some impact in helping him to become who he is today. In turn, he has taught me so much about patience, understanding, and conflict resolution. I thank him with my whole heart and look forward to seeing him take on the world, one step at a time.
P.S. Here are some other sources to consider:
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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]
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