Step parenting ultimately means being a step away from being a parent. Even if you have no intention of parenting, at the very least you are expected to step in when the real parent is absent. Like it or not, in a blended family you will do some parenting.
Step parenting takes both, you and the biological parent. This relationship has to be solid unit. While it may take time to earn the respect of stepchildren, you nevertheless need the complete support of the biological parent. Your relationship will be on the display table and stepchildren take their cues from the strength of this relationship. If this relationship is weak and characterized by arguments, you the stepparent will be viewed as the weak link in this household. Not only do you and the real parent need to be a unified front, you also need to make your relationship a priority. When it comes down to the wire, real parents tend to side with their children, if the romantic relationship is unstable. This leads to power struggles, manipulation and disrespect. When stepchildren learn early on, that they cannot interfere with your relationship with their parent, they refrain from playing one against the other. They have no other choice, but to gradually accept you.
Make sure that you and the real parent agree on rules and expectations and let the stepchildren know what they are. Don’t try to be an overnight parent. Remember, your stepchildren most likely didn’t ask for you. While you can expect a civil treatment, which should be reinforced by the real parent, your stepchildren may remain distant and reserved for a while. They fear losing their parent to you and it may take some time until you cease to be a threat. Here are a few tips on being a good stepparent:
·Be patient and allow for adjustment time
·Get involved with your stepchildren and show sincere interest.
·Don’t sit on the fence waiting for their reaction – it makes them more suspicious
·Be yourself and do not play a role in the presence of your stepchildren
·Enforce the rules that have been established for them
·Offer your help and ask them to help you with tasks
·Be a united front with the real parent
·Make your romantic relationship a priority
·Have an identity as a couple independent of the children
·Do things with the children and alone as a couple
·Insist on couple privacy
·Never say anything negative about any of their family members
·Allow them to love their other real parent, who is not living with them
·Be kind and be fair
·If they are old enough, let them know that they too are responsible for harmony
Being a stepparent comes with rewards and punishment. Be prepared for the ups and downs. However, if you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, the rewards may be well worth the effort.
© 2006 Allie Ochs