LIKE the mother-in-law, the title stepmother carries a negative connotation. Some stepmothers are said to be so cruel that the children can't wait to get out of their clutches. However, let me hasten to say that I am aware that there are some 'super stepmothers' out there, who get along very well with their step children.
I often wonder though why we use the word 'step'. Couldn't we use a more positive term? Maybe it is time to say just 'mother' instead of 'stepmother', maybe this would help those who are struggling to remember that even though they might not be the biological mother of the child, they are still in the position of mother. This means that the way the child is raised -- the love, care and tender affection that the child needs should be no less than what would be expected from the biological mother.
To be a good stepmother isn't asking for too much and if you truly want to be the best stepmother ever, the following suggestions can start you off on the road to success.
1. Love the child: Some women love the father but hate the child. If you love and marry the father, then by all means love the child also. You should do everything in your power to communicate love to the child. Children gravitate toward love and will be better adjusted if they feel loved and accepted by their stepmothers.
2. Treat the child as your own: Never treat the child as an unwelcomed guest or as an outcast. If your own children are living in the home along with your step children, then you must treat all of them equally. Also teach your children to be kind and loving to their step brothers and sisters.
3. Talk positive: If you must speak about the child's other parent, you should only say what is positive. If you speak evil of the child's mother then of course you can come across as evil. Remember that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
4. Discipline with love: When you have to administer discipline, do it in love. Communicate to the child why certain behaviours are unacceptable and why they will not go without discipline. When you have to punish the child, the punishment should not be overbearing, it should match the wrong behaviour that you are punishing. Also, remember that there is more than one way to administer discipline -- choose what is most appropriate for the child's age.
5. Give lots of encouragement: A child who is encouraged to do well will want to strive for excellence. Encourage the child to be the best that he/she can be. When you give lots of encouragement, you are communicating that you care.
6. Never ever tell yourself that you are just a stepmother: Think mother instead, and do everything for the child that a loving mother would do. Many years after the child becomes an adult, both father and child should remember your love and will thank you for the role you played in raising another woman's child.
Jacqueline Champier is a counselling psychologist based in Mandeville.
Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/Aim-to-be-the-best-stepmother-ever_7773371#ixzz2BYsSir2k