As a Stepmum, thrown in the deep end, with an instant family, it helps to discover some coping strategies to help remember who you are, keep grounded, and to focus on the relationship with your partner, so you don't both get bogged down with day to day domesticity, trivia, child schedules and particularly if there are legal matters being dealt with as well.

You will see "Detach" mentioned on here a lot. Particularly at times of stress or when you're feeling the ex wife might be too big a presence in your day to day lives. There is also an article on making time for yourself, which is another coping strategy. But in addition to this, you are learning how to live with and manage, children who are not your own, and who you may love to bits or be great friends with, but sometimes their Dad is at work or busy and you're left wondering what to do when the kids won't put their toys away or eat their meals and you feel - well basically - inexperienced. This is not just specific to being a step parent - it can be the same for any new parents also, which is why there are programmes and books on parenting! But if you're a young stepmum who hasn't had children, it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. This doesn't mean you aren't good with children it just means that it can help to develop some coping strategies when you feel out of your depth.

Coping strategies with children

This is particularly for new Stepmums and childless stepmums. It is also a myth that childless step parents don't know what to do because they haven't had children. This is a harmful myth that relegates new stepmums to being "lesser" somehow. The fact is, any new parent has not had children before! There is a first time for everyone and one thing that becomes clear is - it's instinctive. Not only that, but we used to be children! We know what children are like and some of us are young enough to remember very clearly! That can help, if you remember yourself at the age of the child and the things that you thought about your parents or tried on with your parents, and the things you respected them for and the things that frustrated you. Remembering what made you feel good and what made you feel bad when you were growing up.

Aside from that, some stepmums have careers working with children or other children in the family and know quite a lot about children - you may be a nurse, a social worker, a teacher, work in a childrens nursery, or have nieces and nephews you are close to.

But back to coping strategies. There are different ones for different circumstances. If you're left "holding the baby" - ie alone with the children, and they're playing up, don't panic and get stressed, just take a moment to be calm and breathe and then be upbeat and humorous. Humour is a great way of getting people to take notice. And so is distraction. If direct request or instruction isn't working, think outside the box and try some humour or distraction. Children warm to adults who make them laugh. Distraction can be as simple as - ooh look what's that outside the window. Then have a laugh when they realise you've just changed the subject. Or it can be an activity or a toy. Or food. One very helpful tip when it comes to food is - only give them three options. So you don't say "What would you like to eat?". You say would you like yoghurt, fruit or ice cream? This works. They have a choice - they like choosing - but they are only given three options so they choose one of them and it feels like a reward - because they had a choice. I am crediting Kathryn Mewes of the "Three Day Nanny" TV series for this tip! This series was originally on Channel 4 but is available to stream here


Playparks are great for burning off energy and distraction, and drawing, colouring and crafts can keep children occupied happily. You will find yourself thinking up things to do. If all else fails. Stick on a DVD or stream a film. It is amazing how younger children can sit completely mesmerized while a film is on.


Coping Strategies with feeling powerless

You want to support your partner, but he is caught up in worrying about and dealing with the biological Mother and you can feel excluded and hurt that you can't operate like a normal couple sometimes, when it comes to anything to do with the stepchildren, who may live with you part of the time and who you spend time caring for jointly with your partner, cooking for and much more.

It can feel frustrating when you have good ideas and simple, logical solutions, and no-one is listening to you. Sometimes in these situations you have to not take it personally, and be pragmatic. It's just arrangements. When you and your partner and the stepchildren are together, that is your own life. The arrangements are just things that have to go on in the background.

Depending on how amicable, or not, your partner or husband is with his ex, there can be another whole range of emotions to deal with. Most Dads try very hard to keep things amicable with the ex, to avoid disagreements affecting the children. But sometimes you may feel frustrated that your partner is giving in to unreasonable demands on his time or changing things at short notice when you had plans - to keep the peace. These are things that need discussion at the right time, but avoid arguing about it. You could maybe say you have a few suggestions about setting some boundaries and how changes are dealt with between the two of you. Eg you would like to be consulted before any sudden changes in arrangements are made. You accept that the arrangements may still change, but it would help you feel more respected if you were consulted and given the opportunity to accept the changes, rather than just being told what was happening.

So setting and keeping boundaries is important and it may mean professional support to help with this if it's an issue - eg a self help book or counselling.

The other situation can be where your husband and partner, is a bit TOO amicable with his ex. And here, we're talking about situations that are basically emotional infidelity. If he spends a lot of time chatting with her by text, when it's not to do with arrangements for the children, and it impacts on your time and relationship. Or his ex wants him to go over every Sunday and do her garden, but you're not invited. Impacting upon your own week-end time together, when the children are with the biological Mum. And this involves staying for lunch or unnecessarily long stays. Again this is boundaries but it can be incredibly hurtful and you may also need personal support in this situation to see the wood for the trees.

There are many many more coping strategies, depending on the circumstances, which many other second wives and stepmums have had experience of and can share and give support and advice, and that is what the forum is for. You are not alone and you deserve to be treated well.

Do post on the forum for support and advice, and after an initial period of time, there is also a private section where you can keep a diary, which can help with coping also.
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