Becoming a step-parent is one of the most challenging situations that an adult can face. Developing a good relationship with your new stepchildren doesn’t happen overnight, and it often doesn’t occur unless you put in considerable thought, preparation, and hard work. While the transition may not be easy, there are several measures that you can take in learning how to become a great step-parent and growing into your new role.
Deal with the “You’re Not My Parent” Argument Right Away
Regardless of the age of your stepchildren, it is inevitable that this conversation will be brought up. When you receive this response from your stepchild, be clear and confident about your role in the family. Let the child know that you are aware that you are not his or her parent. Let the child know you do not intend to replace their biological parent. However, if a biological parent is not available to handle a situation in which a rule has been overstepped, it is important to exert your authority as an adult that is in charge. Discuss your intentions and ideas about this with your partner who is the child’s biological parent first, to agree on parameters of your parenting involvement and to avoid conflicts with your partner. Both of you should have a united approach towards parenting the children for the best parenting results as well as marital harmony.
Be Realistic with Your Relationship Expectations
You should not go into your new step-parent role expecting instant love and attachment, as these feelings take time to develop. Instead, begin your relationship on the foundation of respect. Exemplify respectful behavior toward your stepchildren, and let them know that you expect to be treated the same way. Avoid making negative or derogatory comments regarding the absent biological parent in order to encourage trust with your stepchildren.
Spend Time with Each Child Individually
Although a group identity is essential for becoming a family, it is also important to spend one-on-one time with each of your stepchildren in order to develop a positive relationship. Make time to spend alone together, and try to get into your stepchild’s world. Consider driving your stepchild to school or volunteering with the child’s extracurricular activities in order to get this alone time.
Be a Cheerleader
As a step-parent, it is important that you support your stepchild in all of their endeavors, including school projects, sporting events, dreams, goals, and ambitions. Go to as many school functions or activities as possible that you are invited to attend, but ensure that you are respectful to the biological parent during these events. Acknowledge the struggles and efforts that your stepchild experiences, and work to be a good role model. Your stepchild will begin to learn to rely on you and will trust your feedback over time.
Focus on Having a Successful Marriage
Your marriage is the most vulnerable relationship in your home. While you may feel selfish at times, it is important to do what is necessary to ensure that your marriage remains strong, not only for you as adults, but also for your family. Guard your alone time, as a couple. Talk about issues that you may be experiencing regarding the stress of your role as step-parent and problem solve to address any issues together. Eventually, your children and stepchildren will likely model your loving and respectful marriage in their own relationships as adults.
Taking on the role of a stepparent is a challenging endeavor that will likely have its bumps along the way. By putting in effort with your new family to forge positive relationships, you will be on your way to becoming a great step-parent.