We look forward to summer vacation in the months leading up to June. The warmer weather, the outdoor activities and the longer days are big bonuses. We are relieved when it arrives. A sigh of relief. BUT, how long does that excitement last in your home before your nerves and your anxiety get grated on. And what if you AREN’T looking forward to summer vacation? I was able to join my business bff – Erin Careless of Steplife- Stepfamily Coaching, for a video interview about how to handle the stepkids and the bio kids over the summer. Some of the questions we had were around last minute scheduling changes, feeling out of control as an outsider, disciplining, and above all else managing your mental health (because summer vacation is a test in patience on a daily basis).
The biggest thing you can do for yourself to manage the extra kids, the extra work and the extra stress is self care. It should always be on the top of your list of priorities. ALWAYS. When our stress goes up so should our self care. But often it goes the exact opposite direction. It gets put on the back burner. And the little things that might annoy you when you are replenished and rested start to become major battlegrounds.
As for the discipline? Leave it to the bio parent. Yep. Repeat the mantra not my circus not my monkey. Seriously. Especially if you are new to the blended family- ie the first 4- ish years. You have to make a connection- meaning bonding and attachment – BEFORE you can make the correction- ie the discipline. Other wise you lack authority to make any headway in the discipline department. Think about it- if you had a boss who was flexible and forgiving if you arrived 10 minutes late to work most mornings, and had to leave early on occasion for child care issues or medical appointments. As long as you did your work and you were straightforward with your boss about time discrepancies they gave you the benefit of the doubt. If she asked you to work late one week night or asked you to pick up a shift for a co worker who was ill you might be more inclined to give and help out. If you had a clock watching, in flexible boss who demanded you put your full hours in regardless of parenting or personal challenges would you be as willing to put in extra hours? You go farther, the extra mile when you have a respectful relationship of give and take. Not much difference with kids. But, if the bio parent isn’t keen on stepping up you do have other options. One, step way back so it makes the parent step up. You can do this by making yourself unavailable- ie you’re out with friends for a glass of wine when its bed time or you are taking your own kiddos to the park for some fresh air. Two, sit down as family and come up with rules, expectations, and consequences. ALL OF YOU TOGETHER. Then you have no arguments. The kids have a part in decision making about THEIR discipline and there’s a much bigger buy in. Research has shown that it’s the stepfamilies who fall into the gender expectation trap the easiest.
Feeling like an outsider? It takes time- and patience- to feel like a gelled unit. Up to 7 years according to the research. I will reiterate the connection before correction and self care suggestions noted above for this one. And a gentle reminder that the harder you try to get them to like you the harder the push back in the loyalty wars.
Last minute schedule changes? Ideally you should have had the conversations ahead of time about scheduling and who gets the kids when. I said IDEALLY. We all know that the summer schedule can be a ground for power and control tactics by the other house. Here’s where letting the bio parent deal with the mayhem is beneficial. What you need to know versus what you want to know is a new rule to incorporate into your daily mantras. What you want to know can be set aside while you focus on self care. But it is unnecessary information. This can be a real sanity saver for setting boundaries so you don’t feel like the other house controls what happens in yours. You may just have to get good at rolling with the punches- ie you make the decision not to let it irk you as much as it does.. When and how you will react to the situations. That’s where you have the power.
Just remember that the summer is about fun so try your local resources on cheap activities for the kids. AND PS NO KID HAS EVER DIED FROM BOREDOM.