Step-parenting comes with its own unique set of challenges. No one needs to tell you that. Although in retrospect, I wish someone had sat me down and told me in so many words. So, how do you begin? Whether you are just starting out on your journey of being a stepmom or if you’re starting over in your stepmom resolve, here’s a key player you shouldn’t leave on the bench. Routine. It gets a bad rap from our culture that says being spontaneous is king.
Routines squelch creativity. That’s just not so. Absolutely there is a need for spontaneous activities, that’s what adds spice to life. But may I assert that routines are what will give you handles on your day-to-day life and eliminate the fear of the unknown. They may even free you up to be more creative! Schools have routines. Churches have routines. Camps have routines. Why shouldn’t you? Kids expect them. Kids need them. Kids thrive with them. If there is no reliable routine, no one knows what the expectations are or if any boundaries have been crossed.
Routines should be very simple and helpful. For example, what do you do with your stepchild the first 15 minutes when they arrive back in your home? That may look different depending on if you are a custodial or non-custodial stepmom. But it really should be the exact same thing – a routine they can expect. Do you hug, kiss, high five? Do they shower and change clothes? Do they sit with you and give you an overview of what’s happened to them since you saw them last? Do you talk about events coming up? Does the family, that lives in your home, share a meal or play a fun family game as soon as everyone is present? There’s no right or wrong here, but the routine gives your stepchild a comfort zone, a predictable safety net, and helps ease the transition back and forth.
So, think through your days. Where can you initiate a routine? At mealtime are there prayers or sharing the best part of your day? At bedtime is there a story or chapter book you from each night (teens too) or do you talk together once the lights are out? In the morning what job does each person have to help get everyone out the door on time? Is there one-on-one time doing backpack checks before an outing? What about the last 15 minutes before they leave your home?
Additionally, routines for birthdays, etc. are huge! Stepkids need something to look forward to that’s predictable and exciting when they have to manage the emotional roller coaster of blended family issues on a daily basis. Think about it. You’re creative. If something doesn’t work, change it till it feels right and is a welcome fit for everyone. Include the kids (step and bio) in figuring these routines out. Talking with them will give you insight into what is meaningful or beneficial to them, further validating their importance to you and their place in the family.
If you’re hesitant to start something because you think you’ll forget what you did, do yourself a favor and write it down. Seriously! Start a journal. It can be YOUR routine. Because believe you me, your step-kids won’t forget and you want them to remember the good days, not the disappointing ones. Routines are not boring, they help maintain consistency in your home and eliminate power struggles. They should be comfortable and natural, just like time spent with a good friend.