Blended family and the step parent
When love came to you again, it came with something extra – more children added to the mix. You are excited about building your new blended family, but really nervous about how good you will be at step parenting and whether your step kids will accept you. Being a step parent can be a wonderfully fulfilling role, but also has its ups and downs. Blending two families can be trying, but you can get through it and build a loving relationship with your step kids.
Accept step parenting challenges
Raising a child who is not biologically yours can be intimidating to all concerned. As a step parent, you often feel like an outsider. You wonder when, if ever, you will feel confident, and competent, enough for your step parent role. Your step kids may see you as the reason mom and dad will never get back together, plus, they feel jealous of the time their parent is spending with you. You all wonder if it will ever get better. As well, the ex-spouse of your new partner may still feel bitter over the divorce and your remarriage, and worrying about how much influence you will hold over their children.
Know your step parent role
As it is with virtually every other blended family issue, communication between you and your new blended family partner about step parenting roles and boundaries should begin as soon as possible. Your talks need to be candid, caring, and comprehensive. You rightfully want to be able to have a positive influence on your step kids, but in most cases, step parents should stand back and let their partners maintain primary control over biological kids, especially at first.
Initially, a step parent can help most by simply serving to reinforce their partner’s parenting efforts. Make sure you and your mate talk in private, to set up house rules and expectations for all children in the home and visiting the home. It takes time for members of a step family to know and accept each other, and to feel comfortable enough to deal one-on-one with issues generally reserved for moms and dads and their kids. Also, it takes time for the other parent of your step kids to accept and even welcome the influence you are sure to have on them. Until that happens, step kids find themselves not sure how cooperative they should be with you. It helps to be patient with the ex-spouse; criticizing, undermining or ignoring his or her parental decisions only makes things more difficult.
Introductory blended family meeting
Hold your first blended family meeting to discuss the household rules and expectations you and your new partner have formulated to help manage your blended family; do this either before your marriage or shortly thereafter. As a couple, clearly define your partnership roles as parents and leaders in the step family, and describe the types of behavior you expect from the children, and from yourselves. Explain chores, bed times, permissions, restrictions, and any other issues you both feel are important to the wellbeing of your blended family. Successful blended families generally share one important household rule: Treat everyone with consideration and respect. Discuss consequences for breaking or ignoring rules.
Regular blended family meetings
As soon as possible, set a family meeting schedule which accommodates the needs of every blended family member. Here, upcoming activities to be added to the step family calendar, feelings about discipline or issues between step siblings, visitation schedules and needs, and a host of other items may be discussed freely. While you and your partner are indeed the authority figures in your home, letting your kids know they have input into the blended family situation helps them know they are an important part of the family.
Go for it with your step kids
Visiting step kids do not have to spend every minute with their biological parent. Spending relaxed time alone with you can help build your relationship. Why not drive them yourself to soccer practice or take them with you to the grocery store? Take advantage of opportunities for casual talk about upcoming activities, or thoughts and feelings about life in general. You may not be mom or dad, but you are, after all, still a parent. Being a step parent does not diminish your interest in their lives, or your affection for them. Tell your step kids you love them at least once a day, the same as you do for your biological children.
Don’t give up!
Even when step kids scorn your sincere efforts for a close relationship with them, don’t give up! Keep trying, even if you are hurt by their rejection. While they may give the impression they want you to, your step kids need to know you believe they are worth the effort. Building a step family, learning to live together in a blended family home, these are important goals that take time to achieve. Be patient. Be loving. Be the kind of step parent your step kids need. If you need extra help, check out the resources at The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.