By Jamell Andrews
With the rate of failed marriages increasing, more and more people are becoming step-parents. Stepping into the role of parent for a child that already has a mother and father isn’t always easy. Even with the challenges you may face, being a stepparent can be rewarding and you can form a strong and loving bond.
The following are 7 tips to help make your transition to stepparent easier.
- Take it slow. Your stepchild might not warm up to you as quickly as you hope, but trying to force things along will only make it worse. All relationships need time to grow and as resilient as children are, the idea of their parent’s being with someone else can be difficult to accept. Give them time to accept the new arrangement and to warm up to you. Avoid giving in to their every whim or spoiling them in an attempt to make them like you. Children can see through this and will have a harder time accepting and respecting you.
- Don’t try to replace the parent. You may think that you need to take your cues from the relationship the child already has with their mother/father, but that isn’t so. Your job as a stepparent isn’t to replace the role of the birthparent, but rather to be an extra loving adult in the child’s life. You can be kind, offer support and guidance, and all of those other things that great parents do without having to have a relationship that’s identical to the one the child already has with their parents.
- Avoid badmouthing the parent. Just because the relationship didn’t work out between the child’s parents, doesn’t give you the right to speak badly about the other parent or their failed relationship. It’s important to place your own feelings or insecurities on the child and doing so will only push them away. Be supportive of his or her parents and encourage the child to spend time with them. It’s not a competition, nor is it about just you.
- Set and follow boundaries. Speak to your partner about important issues such as discipline and set boundaries. If the child needs to be disciplined, leaving it up to the parent to handle, at least in the first year or so, is advisable. You need to be on the same page about important parenting issues in order to maintain consistency and a united front.
- Get to know your stepchild. Take the time to find out what they enjoy and what matters to them, as well as to share things about yourself with them. This can help you find some common interests that can help you bond and make it easier for you to build a loving relationship.
- Create your own family traditions. Your stepchild can continue to enjoy the traditions created with the birth parents as well as new traditions that you create together as a family. Get their input and overtime come up with enjoyable things to do together as a family that they can look forward to, such as a family game night, a yearly vacation to a special place, or any other activity that the child enjoys doing with you without feeling pressured into it.
- Don’t take things personally. You’re bound to hear “you’re not my mom/dad” at some point over the course of your relationship and you’ll also likely hear several other things that you don’t like. Remember that the child is coming to grips with the demise of his or her parent’s relationship, which to a child also feels like the end of their family. It will take time for them to grieve and accept these things and they may lash out because of it. Your best bet is to acknowledge that you are not their biological parent or trying to take anyone’s place, but that you are the stepparent and love them just as much. Remember that it’s not about you even if it does feel that way sometimes.
Being a stepparent won’t always be easy and you can expect some rough patches in the beginning, but with a lot of love and patience, things will improve for you and your stepchild.