With a high divorce rate and remarriage rate, many people are quickly finding themselves in the step-parenting role. There are many aspects to parenting in general, so you can only imagine the various aspects that have been developed around step-parenting as well. Here are several tips to help you out in your new parenting position.
1. Remember, they already have parents
As a new step-parenting, it can be difficult to understand where you stand in the life of the children you are acquiring. I most cases, the children already have a mom and a dad and for some children you may be a second or third step-parent. This means that there are already rules that are set. To make life easier on everybody, it is easiest if the step-parent adopts the existing rules instead of trying to create new rules. This provides the children with consistency and continuity in their life that is much needed at this point.
2. Encourage children to call you by your first name
It is always best for children to call a new step-parent by their first name rather than “mom” or “dad.” This is because most children already have a mom and dad and they may not feel comfortable calling you mom or dad when you are not really their mom and dad. Unless the child was adopted at such a young age that the other parent was not involved in their life or the child chooses on their own to call you mom or dad, then it is best to use first names. Asking a child to call this new person mom or dad is something that can cause a lot of inner turmoil and they may feel as though the new parent is trying to take over their existing parents place in their life.
3. Are they a “step” or not? Let them decide
One of the best things you can do for a child is to communicate with them about how they would like to be introduced. Do they want to be introduced as your “step-son” or “step-daughter,” or are they comfortable with being your son or daughter. Step-parenting is often easiest on children when there are no distinctions made. Many step-parents will refer to all of their children as “my kids.” This provides all of the children with a sense of belonging in the family. Don’t distinguish unless the child asks you to.
4. Do not degrade the other parent in front of the children
One of the worst things that you can do in front of your newly acquired step-children is to degrade their parents. It is even worse if you degrade them in front of the children. In most step-parenting situations, the children already feel some hostility in the new living situation and arrangements. They may also already feel defensive about their other parent. When you degrade their parent in front of them you are only adding to these feelings and causing the child to be on the defensive. This only eats away at their self-worth and confidence as well.
5. Encourage your step-children to spend time with both of their parents.
Many children find themselves in a situation where they feel as though they are competing for the attention of their parents. This may be because the newly wed parent is still in the “honeymoon” phase of the marriage and they feel as though they are being ignored. By supporting the children to spend time with both of their parents on their own, they will see that you are not trying to “steal” away their parent and that you are not their enemy. The result is a child who is happier and a family life that is more enjoyable.
Step-parenting is challenging, but so is parenting. There are no stringent rules and regulations on how to do things and which way is the right way, but if you follow some general and basic tips you will find that your new family can be as happy and joyful as the next.