• Michelle Zunter

4 Traits of Highly Effective Stepmoms



1. Self-Awareness


It’s healthy for every person and parent out there to have developed a generous sense of self-awareness, but for a stepmom, it can be particularly useful.


No matter what your situation as a stepmom is, whether it’s a full-time, part-time, weekend, or even seasonal stepmom, if you don’t go into this role with a solid idea of who you are, what your personal boundaries are, and what your mental and emotional limits are, you’ll probably have a more difficult time than if you are the type who knows exactly what they will and won’t put up with.


This can be hard for stepmoms because a lot of the time you’re coming into a family situation with limited background knowledge or way to gauge how the children you’re step-parenting are going to react to you in any given situation.


Many stepmoms tend to lose sight of who they were before they became a stepparent and find themselves resenting their step-kids or even their spouse.


Developing and maintaining your self-awareness means holding on to things that make you who you are, such as your extracurricular interests, workout routines, outings with friends on your own, or a career that you’re passionate about.


Remember: If stepmom ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.


2. Compassion


Dealing with the feelings of others is something stepmoms will undoubtedly have to navigate through. Being compassionate is a trait that’s really a necessity when working through the blended family dynamics.


The word compassion is thrown around a lot and sometimes the true meaning of the word can get lost in the shuffle. Compassion means that you are aware of another person’s distress, are sympathetic to it, and also want to do everything you can to alleviate that distress.


As a stepmom, compassion is something you will need for your stepchildren, your spouse, yourself, and even for your spouse’s ex — believe it or not. Having compassion for any kind of pain or angst caused by separation, divorce, and new stepparents entering into the picture is essential.


Even when your stepchild or stepchildren are being unbelievably disagreeable you’ve got to try and hold on to even an ounce of compassion.


This doesn’t mean you get loose on your boundaries but you must always keep compassion in your back pocket to refer back to in times of step-family strife.


When you’re annoyed by the ex, which is a common stepmom problem, you need to go back to feeling compassion and realize that a lot of the time, the anger or tension sent your way is not actually about you — it’s about human beings dealing with circumstances that not everyone is happy about.


3. Diplomacy


I’ve discussed diplomacy before in my other step-parenting articles. It’s probably one of the most useful traits a stepmom can have. The technical definition of being diplomatic is, “having or showing an ability to deal with people in a sensitive and effective way.”


It takes practice to be diplomatic and there’s never any harm in practicing it too much.


The life of a stepmom typically revolves around back and forth schedules, plans, irritations, miscommunications, and family events that may involve high tension. Learning to deal with people in a sensitive way — especially people you’d rather not talk to at all — can be a challenge.


Speaking and acting with regard to other people’s feelings and schedules is important. Being polite goes a long way. Being sensitive to touchy subjects is also essential. That’s diplomacy.


You may be able to demonstrate diplomacy almost all the time if your co-parenting relationship with your spouse’s ex is relatively friendly or civil.


However, if you’re in a situation where you’re dealing with a “high-conflict” ex, you may have to settle for being diplomatic as much as your patience will let you.


No one expects you to be perfect, but above all, a stepmom must first consider the well-being of her stepchildren and if that means being diplomatic during a moment when you’re severely tempted to lose your temper — do work on it.


In the end, you’ll be showing a great example to your step-kids as well as walking away feeling like you took the high road.


4. Optimism


This one may sound hokey but working to maintain optimism will spill over into your step-parenting in the best way possible. There’s so much negativity that can come along with being a stepmom that it can be impossible to see the good stuff sometimes.


When a child doesn’t have both biological parents together, that’s a big negative for most children and a stepmom literally walks into this at the start. Turning a situation around from something that your step-kids may be unhappy about into something everyone actually enjoys living with is basically like performing a magic trick.


But it can be done.


You can build positive relationships with your stepchildren. You can build a positive relationship with the ex — but if you absolutely can’t, then you can maintain a positive attitude about them in front of the kids and most everyone else.


Try your best to be optimistic. Think good thoughts. When you’re mad, force yourself to see the bright parts of your situation. Focus on anything that makes being a stepmom worthwhile to you.


Being optimistic doesn’t mean you never see the bad or negative aspects of a situation. It means that you see the positive in spite of those things that bring you down.


More from Michelle: How To Cope With ‘Biological Jealousy’ as a Stepmom

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