Parenting may be the most difficult job in the world; making being a stepparent seems downright impossible! It doesn’t matter whether it was death or divorce that ripped your spouse’s former family unit apart, the kids are still going to view you as the outsider intruding on their turf.
Is it possible to build a bond of love and respect under these circumstances? Of course, say the experts, as long as you acknowledge that your role as stepparent will be different than that of biological parent – at least in the beginning.
Statistics show that a whopping 60% of all marriages with stepchildren will fail, oftentimes due to the couple’s inability to turn his kids, her kids and their kids into a family.
Being a stepparent is tricky. Your job as a parent remains the same: to teach your children (all of them), how to become responsible, loving and caring adults. The trick to accomplishing that in a stepparent role takes the following:
Acknowledging the Children’s Feelings of Loss.
It doesn’t matter what contributed to your new family: divorce or death, children need time to grieve the loss of one family unit, and come to grips with the reality of a new one.
Not Expecting An Instant Love Connection.
You may wish that you could instantly fall in love with your step children – and they with you – but the truth is, just because you fell in love with their parent doesn’t mean those feelings will come right away for his/her children. Building a loving relationship with step children can take time. Show respect for their feelings and doubts – and accept your own .
Setting Some Ground Rules.
Whether your stepchildren live with you or not, establish some ground rules regarding discipline, punishment and respect with your spouse right away. Learn what your limits are in regards to dealing with problems that may arise with the children, and what your expectations are regarding ex-spouses. Let the children help to establish some of the more minor house rules. They need to know that their thoughts and feelings are being considered too. When it’s time for discipline, allow the biological parent to take the lead whenever possible. Kids have the tendency to accept it better that way, at least in the beginning.
Getting to Know One Another.
Take some on-on-one time with each stepchild to get to know them better. You have a unique arrangement that allows you to be more friend than parent, especially if your spouse isn’t the custodial parent. Use it to your advantage. Have fun together. It’ll help you build a bond of respect and friendship before becoming a parent-child team.
Establishing Some New Family Traditions.
Don’t be jealous of the great family traditions your stepchildren share with your spouse. Create some new ones. Think of ways your new family can build memories, especially at the holidays and during vacation times.
Keeping a Sense of Humor.
Humor is great for relieving tension, building intimacy and keeping everything in perspective. Humor may not solve all of your problems, but it sure can help you survive them!