Using the 5 Love languages to connect with your step-children

The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman was written in 1995 and has become more popular among couples globally, selling over 13 million copies. The book sparked a new way of thinking about how we love and how we like to receive love. It clearly explained not only how to say “I love you” but also how we can hear it clearly by teaching people how to express love in their spouses language.

According to Dr. Chapman, there are five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. To read them in detail , get the book here.

In this post, I will be summarizing the five love languages and how understanding your stepchildren’s love language can help you start and form a long lasting connection with them.

Words of affirmation

Actions speak louder than words right? Well, while this is true, the words mean just as much as the actions. Positive affirmations are just as important for children’s emotional and mental well being as is their nutrition, sleep and exercise. What you put into your child is what you’re going to get out of your child. If they only hear negative comments about themselves or their parents, they will actually begin to display more and more of those negative traits. 

When they’re young, children derive their own identity from their parents. That is why they blame themselves when mom and dad divorce/separate. This is one of the biggest unfavorable situations that children can face in their lives. If they feel bad about the situation, it may cause them to become more negatively motivated will feelings of guilt, sadness, anger and frustration. Your words of affirmation give them the ability to focus on the positive things and overcoming the situation. It’s therefore important that you become their biggest fan.

Photo credit : Nicholas Githiri

As a biological parent it is important to always reassure them of your love despite the break up with their other parent. A good place for step parents to start is to spend quality time together with their stepchildren, taking a keen interest in their activities as this reveals what the child is doing well and presents you with an opportunity for you to tell them just how great they are doing for example, when they bring home good test scores, an act of kindness to others, their outfit, a great game on the football pitch, a great performance at the school play or helping around the house.

Quality Time

This is can be anything from a family vacation, Sunday afternoon lunches after church, dinners, watching movies, running errands like shopping together, going for a run or a bike ride, etc. with your step-children. These activities done together help the kids feel secure because their parents are close to them. They feel insecure when plans are cancelled or if they perceive that their parent would rather be alone or with others and not them.

Photo Credit : Agung Pandit Wiguna

As a stepparent you have to find the balance here. If you are just starting out, this may look like letting the kids spend quality time with their biological parents without you in the picture. Initially they perceive a step parent especially stepmoms as competition. As your relationship grows you will graduate to spending time with the kids with your partner to doing some activities with the kids alone.

Find fun age appropriate activities that you can do together. For example I used to play X-box games with my step children. I would have each pick a game they love and we’d play it together. Other activities can include making a special meal, puzzles, picnics, outdoor games. If they can teach you something new even better. Make sure that you give your full and undivided attention during this time.

Giving Gifts

This love language is the reason why we all love it when we get gifts from people we love especially on special occasions like our birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers day, Fathers day etc. The gift can be anything, what matters is that it is given from the heart. You don’t need to spend a lot—or even any money at all, when it comes to getting gifts. Make or give
thoughtful gifts specific to the child interests. For example, if the child is a reader you can buy them a book on their birthday, or have a project with their sibling to create some cool bookmarks for them.

Photo Credit : Pixabay

The golden rule to apply here is that if the gifts are not for a specific occasion like a birthday make sure you get a gift for all the kids, biological and step. That way there is no room for any of them to feel like some kids are being favored over others.

Physical Touch

Physical affection towards our children is highly promoted and encouraged, both for bonding and for the promotion of their development and well being.  Children need regular touch in order to thrive. Hugs, hand-holding, cuddling, kisses, high fives and even a warm smile mean everything to them. Withholding this from them can make them feel like they are being rejected.

Photo Credit: Nappy

Remember that this again goes back to how comfortable you and your stepchildren are. This will guide you as to what you can or cannot do. Let them guide you. If you are just starting out, you may suggest activities that require close physical proximity like a board game, reading a book, sharing a blanket as you watch TV these will help you as you work your way up to those hugs and kisses

Acts of Service

This is basically love in action. Actions that go above and beyond to help your step children feel your love towards them. Initially this is all you will have in your bag of tricks. They will be constantly watching you to find out what you’re about and they can pick up when you’re love is not genuine. Acts of service may include activities like driving the kids where they need to go without being visibly stressed about it or complaining, especially if their biological parents are unable to do it for whatever reason, helping them with their homework, picking out gifts for the biological parents etc Basically anything that they ask for your help with or that their parent requires help with.

The concept of the 5 love languages have the power to improve any relationship in your life. What is important is that you seek to understand yourself first, understand your loved ones and make a consistent effort on the choice you made to love them.

Stop doing these 6 things if you want to be a good stepmom

” I want to be a good stepmom”.  This is the number one reason given by the women who walk into my office for one on one coaching sessions. They yearn to have great relationships with their stepchildren. They want to have a functional family so badly despite all the stuff that is going wrong. I have learnt from my own experience as well as that of other women that the ones who make it are the ones who stick with it despite swimming against the current. The hard headed, relentless ones who fail and pick themselves up time and again. Those are the stepmoms who reap the fruits of love and happiness and acceptance.

How can I be that woman you ask? well you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and go get it. It will sure as hell not be given to you by anyone. You will have to earn your stripes. The only way to do that is by changing course and tact. You have to stop the things that are holding you back in the first place. Quit doing these 6 things this year and start experiencing that change that you yearn for.

 

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Stop giving up

Step-families are not the kind of thing where you’re in today and out tomorrow when things do not go your way. Remember that they are born out of loss and everyone is subconsciously hoping that they do not have to go through another one. Purpose to check in and stay in no matter what curveballs come your way. No one is asking you to be super woman. Its absolutely human to feel hurt, drained, like giving up, to want a break or change of scenery. Do whatever you have to do to get rid of the negative thoughts and get into a better mental state to continue with your journey. Remember, those who succeed are those who stick with it.

Stop thinking you are alone in this

The stepmom journey can be a very lonely one. First of all people around you do not understand or relate to what you are going through. You might have low self esteem feeling like you don’t belong or second guessing yourself and your abilities or you may be down playing your success. All these can make you feel like you are all alone. The truth is you are not. I have always been vocal about my stepmom journey even when I felt like crawling under a rock and living there for the rest of my life. Over time I realized that the more open I was about it the more others shared their stories as well. Trust me, there are so many other women just like you and I out there who have made it. So you are not alone. Surround yourself with such people who are not ashamed of their truth. Being able to openly share your experiences also lifts the burden of perfection off your shoulders.

Stop focusing on everything you are not and start shining the light on everything you are.

At the beginning of my journey I really struggled with this one. I would think and really marinate over all the things I was not. How I was not a mom, how I was never going to give my partner his first child, basically very many family related firsts for me would not be the same for him. It bugged the hell out me and overthinking it definitely stole my joy. Then I realized what I was doing to myself and to my relationship and decided if I was going to make this work I needed to accept the things that I could not change and embrace all the Wendiness that I was bringing to the table. I am a unique individual with my own unique talents, gifts and experiences that I could share with my new family including my partner. That yes, while some things were not a first time for both of us, it was the first time he wa doing those things with me and that meant something. I embraced these truths and shifted my focus to who I was and believe me it paid off big time with my relationship with my partner and stepchildren as well.

Stop being so hard on yourself

No one ever dreams of being a stepmom. Its not on any woman’s bucket-list. Prince charming has no children. For this reason no woman who ends up as one has a blueprint for navigating this journey. You will make mistakes so don’t punish yourself for them. Learn from them and keep it moving. Remember the goal is not perfection, it’s progress.

Stop running away from your problems

Problems will not disappear simply because you have chosen to sweep them under the rug and pretend they don’t exist. Every family has its own problems, not just stepfamilies. Whatever issues arise, own them and deal with them together with your partner. Make sure you come up with a solution that works for everyone. Otherwise the more unresolved issues you pile up on your self, your marriage and your children the messier it gets later on.

Stop dwelling on the negative

You need to stop swimming in negative thoughts or keeping the company of negative people. This will only make you have a negative mindset and attitude towards everything and it will drag you down. Life is such that you have good days and you have bad days but if you choose keep a positive attitude , you accept what life throws your way and make the best out of it. Stay positive

 

 

 

 

5 things no one tells you about marrying a widower

One type of step-family dynamic that we don’t seem to talk or hear enough about is being married to a widower. There is a notion I have heard from ladies when it comes to this subject matter. Many of them believe that its easier to marry a widower than it is to marry a single dad or a divorcee. The main reason being of course that there will be less stress because the ex in this case is no longer alive so there is no bio moms to battle with, no child custody or visitation issues, no child support and so on. However, the women who have been in this position, women who have dated and married widowers will tell you its a whole different ball game. They are clear that it’s not as easy as people will make it out to be. They confess that supporting a grieving partner and stepchildren is an uphill task and that they do face serious challenges in their new families.

What many stepmoms in this kind of situation forget is that grieving the loss of a loved one is a very personal journey. For some, it’s brief, they seem to move on pretty fast and get on with life as usual while for others, it’s long and onerous. Your partner will be grieving and so will his children. The kids may grieve differently from their parents and a lot of it will be influenced by the kind of relationship they had with the parent they lost. That is why our stepchildren may react very differently to us once we step in as new parents.

So what is it that couples in this kind of family need to know, look out for and handle graciously in order to provide everyone with a comfortable transition? From my work with stepmoms who are married to widowers the following five challenges are common and you will experience them should you be in a similar relationship.

A guilt ridden partner

When my dad passed on, I found myself thinking of what I could have done better or changed while he was still alive. I felt guilty. Guilty I didn’t call as much as I could have, guilty I didn’t take as much care of him while he was alive and more so when he was taken ill, guilty I didn’t visit him at the hospital in what would have been out last afternoon together. I should have been more patient with him, a little more aggressive with his doctors. I could go on and on. The list was endless. I kept feeling that there was always something more that I should have done. If you have ever lost someone dear to you then you know exactly what I am talking about.

Its not different in the case of a widower. They are bound to feel guilty about some things they did or did not do while their partner was alive. They may try to compensate for it in other ways either personally or through their children. For example, a dad may worship and adore his children more than ever to compensate for not being supportive of his wife or children, before her death. This may in turn affect parenting or discipline. He may not be able to say NO to his children when he needs to and this affects his relationship with his new wife.

Grieving stepchildren

Children tend to be a couple of steps behind the adults when they lose a parent. Not all the children will grieve the same way or learn to live with the loss at the same time. Some children may take this out on the newly introduced partner especially if the relationship is perceived to be too soon. Grieving stepchildren are not sure how to take the prospect of having a new parent figure. It feels like a betrayal to mom if they do and chances are they will feel that their dad is also betraying her by marrying you hence their rejection of you.

Living up to an angel

When someone dies, we tend to elevate them to some sort of sainthood. Our minds block out any bad they did and chooses to recall only the good. This means that when you come in as a stepmom the children will compare you to a perfect image of their mother and so will other members of the extended family especially those from moms side. So how on earth do you live up to an angel? How do you respond to constant comparison and always playing second best? All this adds on to the stress and strain of your relationship with them as well as your partner.

Extended family and friends that disapprove

You may endure a long list of opinions offered up by extended family and friends. These opinions may not always be positive. In fact some will be downright disrespectful and hurtful. You may be compared to the mom at every turn and no matter what you do never measure up. Some may make it very clear that they do not approve of you nor do they accept you into the family.

Living in a home that you didn’t choose 

There are cases where your partner or children or both are against the idea of moving to a new house. Their old home has more sentimental value now that “mom” is no more. Its not a surprise that they would want to hold on to it to uphold the memories and special moments shared in it. As the new wife you may find yourself with no option but to move in to this home that has memorabilia that serves as a continual reminder of your stepchildrens mom and this may present some challenges for you. Simple things such as redecorating, moving paintings or family pictures, packing and putting away moms old stuff may cause serious conflict between you and your partner and or the children.

All these are dynamics that you have to deal with when you marry a widower. The earlier you become aware of them and discuss them with your partner early in your relationship the better chance you have to avoid some of them or be well prepared to tackle them should they materialize. In next weeks blog we shall explore how you can overcome these challenges.

If you are dating or married to a widower what was your experience like? What challenges did you face, how did you overcome them and what advise would you give ladies who are in similar relationships? I would love to here from you. You can share by commenting directly on this article or write to me wendy@livinginstepafrica.com