Anyone who is one knows that being a stepparent is tremendously challenging, requiring the patience and tact of a career diplomat. There are no fool-proof rules for how to do it, but there are some general guidelines that can make your life as a stepparent a little smoother:
- Go slowly. It takes a lot of time for relationships to build. Don’t expect to be an instant parent. Usually children have deep attachments to both of the parents even when one is absent and/or not supportive.
- Be a friend. Develop a friendship. Spend time with the child doing things you both enjoy.
- Be a team. Work with your mate. If something one of the children is doing is driving you nuts - don’t react, make a date to vent and problem solve with your mate. Let him know that you are not going to yell or scream at his children, but you may need to vent a little in his or her presence. This does not mean that you do not like the child, but that you are feeling frustrated and need to let off a little steam. Then the two of you can problem solve together. This is very important. A new stepparent yelling, hitting or scaring stepchildren is very damaging to the fragile bonds in a newly formed stepfamily. How you deal with conflict as a blended family will make all the difference in the health of your new family.
- Have regular family meetings. This allows everyone to have a voice. Having family meetings regularly promotes good communication and prevents little problems from growing bigger.
- Take a parenting class with your spouse so that you share a similar philosophy and skills.
- Be respectful of the child’s relationship to their other biological parent. Support the child’s relationship when you can do so honestly - avoid putting that parent down. If the other biological parent is hurtful to the child, still avoid negative talk, but help the child by expressing your caring and affection. Children suffer terribly from torn allegiances and need to feel that they do not have to choose even when the other biological parent is obviously a less than great parent.
Remember being a stepparent means being a friend for life. Be patient as you build this unique and rewarding relationship.