Blended Family parenting and step parenting
Step parenting is a difficult undertaking, mostly because of the time it takes to develop a good relationship with your step kids. Along the way, there will be much bitterness and resentment, many instances of misunderstanding, and intermittent examples of poor behavior. And your step kids will make mistakes, too! However, there are some things to keep in mind that can help you get along better with step kids and help make your blended family home a happier place for everyone.
Define your step family intentions
Older kids or kids who have lost their biological mother or father can be especially sensitive to the possibility you may be trying to replace their biological mother or father. Refrain from asking to be called Mom or Dad. Speak respectfully of their absent parent. Remind step children that while you care for them and take care of them, you are not trying to replace anyone in their life. Your focus is on building a blended family environment where everyone feels loved and cared for.
Do not be afraid to discipline your step kids
Getting along with step children does not mean letting them to do whatever they want. Remember that the duty of a parent is not to be a friend to their children or their step children, but to provide structure, guidance, and support. As a step parent and co-managing adult in your blended family household, you must enforce house boundaries and rules as necessary. Let your spouse decide specific boundaries or punishments for your step kids, though, at least until you feel confident you are both on the same page.
Try not to take things personally
It is common for step children to point out, usually not very nicely, that you are not their biological parent. If you are a new step parent, take heart. This does not mean that you have failed to develop a good relationship with your step kid; it may just mean he or she is still struggling with the changes a blended family has made to their life. Try to resist the temptation to take these comments personally. Your step kids need to see you as the adult in the room, above name-calling and hurt feelings.
Get to know your step children
As a step parent, you are playing catch-up with step kids. Presumably you have already acquainted yourself with each of them, and know a little about their individual interests and personalities. Set aside time to do activities which you know might interest your step children, and do your best to bond with them. Know what grade they are in at school, the names of their teachers, coaches, and who their friends are. Make it a point to express your pleasure that they are part of the blended family. You may find them to be much more accepting of you if you show interest in step kids as individuals.
Refrain from PDA
So-called Public Displays of Affection between you and your new spouse can be upsetting to step children. Try to keep them to a minimum, especially at first. Your step children need time to accept that you are now with their biological parent, and do not need an uncomfortable and constant reminder. Also be aware that adolescents can be especially embarrassed by physical affection, including hugs from you!
Ask your spouse for help
If you feel things are not going well between you and your step kid, talk with your spouse. Ask for insight or advice on getting along with his or her child, or ask them to serve as conflict mediator. As conflict mediator, they must not take sides, but act as an advocate for both you and your step child.
Be persistent and keep trying to develop a good relationship with your step children. Your blended family has the capacity to grow together. It will not happen overnight, but be assured it can happen if you make an effort. Good luck! If you need additional assistance, don’t forget that we are here for you, at the Blended and Step Family Resource Center.