Five Strategies to Start Your Stepparenting Experience on the Right Path
Stepparenting can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. Children aren't always wiling to open up to new stepparents. And stepparents may have difficulty connecting with their new stepchildren. The following strategies can make your transition to stepparenting a bit smoother!
Most important, know that children may still be recovering from the loss of their original family.
If a child's new family does not meet her expectations, she may become resentful. Stepparents need to be patient and give children time to adjust. In some cases, lots of time is needed. Take it slow. Don't be pushy, and give children plenty of room to get used to their new family. Don't force your attention or affection. In time, you may be able to help your stepchildren formulate a new idea of family based on their current set of parents and siblings. But, remember that it may take some time for them to let go of their old visions of family.
When disciplining children, let the biological parent take the lead.
Make yourself available as a support person. If you are forced to take an authoritarian role with your stepkids, behave more like an uncle, babysitter, or roommate. The kids may be more attentive if you avoid stepping in as the "parent". Remember to stay calm and cool. At first, you can wait until the biological parent is available to enforce strict consequences. You will want to set up some specific rules and expectations that either parent can enforce. It may be best to let the biological parent present these expectations to the kids. Talk to the kids about maintaining the rules no matter which adult is in charge whether it's a parent, stepparent, grandparent, babysitter, etc.
Avoid talking negatively about any of the child's biological relatives (i.e. siblings, parents, grandparents).
This will just alienate you from the child and cause resentment.
Spend quality time with your stepchildren.
Get to know your stepchildren by spending one-on-one time with each of them. Be willing to sacrifice some of your own time in order to have fun with your stepchildren. Make yourself available but don't be pushy or forceful. Your stepchild may come to enjoy having another adult around!
If you are blending two families, make sure that you set up the same expectations for all kids.
Kids from two families may not like each other but should be expected to treat each other with respect. Try your hardest to be fair and treat your biological kids and your stepkids equally.
Finally, if you are practicing patience, following the steps above, and find continued difficulties with your stepchildren, you may want to seek the help of a professional family counselor. The family as a whole may need to seek the assistance of an objective, third party to help resolve conflicts and develop coping strategies.
Remember, stepparenting can be very rewarding. Don't forget that if you feel awkward or uncomfortable at times, your stepchild is probably feeling the same way! By remaining calm, patient, and spending some quality time with your stepchildren, you have a great chance of developing a healthy, positive relationships!
by Joanne McNulty, MS