The world of the step-parent is often fraught with numerous challenges especially if you are coming into an already established family that has older children or those in their teen years. The individual who finds themselves in this scenario will be faced with a range of difficulties. From potential conflict with your partner, an inner struggle within yourself, to being given attitude by the children and constantly fighting the urge to just let the children be ‘since they are not mine.’
Yet despite this, parenting and parental obligations remain the same whether you are the child’s birth or step-parent. However as the step-parent, one has to be extra vigilant in their approach to this new role and the attitude has to be right or else it will be a disaster. True, having a family may be the last thing you had in mind but falling in love with someone who has children changes everything. You now must accept and love these children or kiss the relationship bye, bye. Because being a step-parent has it own unique difficulties and requires a lot of adjustments, below are tips to make the transition easier for both the couple and the children:-
Be the adult: Sometimes, a man or woman comes into the family and is unwilling to make any adjustments, instead, he/she expects the children to bend backwards to accommodate him/her. It helps to remember that the children within this setting are already dealing with a sense of loss be it due to death or divorce, the fact is that these children have been separated from one parent. Your presence in that home makes them feel like their relationship with the remaining parent is under threat and having to put up with you is not easy. It is therefore up to you as the adult to reassure these children, make them feel safe so that they can eventually learn to trust and love you.
Respect the ex: Never speak ill of the child’s mother or father – especially not in their presence. No matter how bad or evil they may have been; a parent remains a parent for life and will always be important to that child. Besides, doing so will only make the child resent you and totally destroy any chances of them wanting to get close to you. Keep your criticism – no matter how justified – within the confines of you bedroom and to only be shared with your spouse.
Go easy on the titles: Legally, you may be the child’s new parent but it takes more than this to make one a dad or mom. Therefore, to expect or worse still demand that the child refer to you as mom or dad is totally unrealistic and unfair. These titles denote a close, trusting, loving relationship that can only develop over time. Therefore, expend your energies towards building this kind of relationship because this is way more important than what they call you.
Treat them as children: Don’t be a push-over just because you want to be liked or accepted by the children, in the long run, children will trust a person whom they can respect. Therefore, do not placate and spoil them, get them to observe the household rules and generally treat them the same way you would your own child. In the same breath, don’t discuss them or argue with your spouse about them in their presence. In all matters, you and your spouse should have a private discussion and then together sit the child down for a talk. This presents a united front to the child and reinforces who’s in charge.
Back off a little: Allow the child unlimited access to his/her parent. This can be by allowing one on one time or by giving up some couple time to accommodate family time. You may not always want to do this but, doing it helps remove unnecessary jealousies and eventually knits the family together.