Becoming a step parent can overwhelming and frightening. Figuring out what to do, what to say and how not to step on anyone’s toes creates a veritable minefield to negotiate. Read our top tips for becoming a step parent to help make the whole transition easier for everyone.
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I’m a stepdaughter myself, and I’m lucky that my relationship with my stepmother is a positive one.
If you are a step parent then a positive relationship with your stepchild is a great thing – you can be an extra adult that cares and someone they can rely on as they grow and mature. A strong, encouraging relationship with all family members is really essential for any household to have harmony.
If you are a new step parent, or about to be, here are some tips for a smooth transition:
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How to Be a Step Parent
#1. Set Expectations
It’s important that you set expectations that are realistic. Your stepchild is not going to necessarily love you from day one. It’s not going to be an easy relationship because there’s always the ‘step’ nature to your relationship (“You’re not my mom”).
Try not to be wildly optimistic beforehand, as you may just have your hopes dashed. Instead take a measured approach that over time you can become close to your stepchild; it is just going to need a lot of work, space and time.
#2. Plan Ahead
With step relationships, especially those where the families live in different places, you’ll need to plan ahead quite a bit. From travel arrangements between homes and organising collection times to activities and even food. Plan ahead and this will make things easier.
#3. Take Some Space
Allow your partner to have time with their child; similarly give yourself space so you don’t get overwhelmed, and make room for feelings to erupt.
Transition times between houses can be tough on kids, so build in extra time around those pick ups and drop offs so you can give the child extra attention in the hours before and after they change households.
#4. Involve the Child
As you make plans, make sure to involve the child so they feel part of the planning and decision-making process.
Depending on the age of the child, involve them in discussions about arrangements, days spent with each parent, weekend and holiday plans, etc.
#5. Don’t Forget to Communicate
Good communication is essential for positive relationships, no matter what type of family it is. Blended families and stepfamilies need to make sure that communication is even better because of separate households.
#6. Always Be Respectful
Always, always, always speak of other parents with respect. While it can be tough with the situation at hand, all kids want their parents to be respected – and all parents deserve to be treated politely and civilly. Even if you can’t get along with the other parent, be courteous and respectful of them.
#7. Spend Time Together
Taking some time alone with your stepchild is essential to get to know who they are, what they’re thinking, what they like and don’t like, and so on.
This time together will help you both learn about each other, and will offer the opportunity to appreciate each other for who you are. Remember that the child may only have heard about you via other people, so a chance to get to know you on their own terms is essential.
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#8. Find a Common Interest
Try to find a shared interest or activity that you can do together to build a bond. Take a lead from the child and if they suggest something, go with the flow; you may even enjoy doing a new activity with them!
If the child is resistant or unenthusiastic about this, you need to be resilient and persevere. Don’t force the issue, but continue to offer the opportunity to do something together.
#9. Have An Outlet
It’s a tough job being a stepparent, and you may not feel like you can vent to your partner, so find a friend who is happy to be your outlet. Let off steam and get a respite from the stress now and again.
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Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Step Parent
Let’s sum it up with a list to remember:
- DON’T try too hard to make an instant bond, allow time.
- DO agree on rewards, punishments, discipline, etc with your new partner and their ex so you are all on the same parenting page.
- DON’T discourage your stepchild from having one-on-one time with your partner.
- DO be ready to hear, “You’re not my real mom/dad”.
- DON’T take it personally.
- DO make sure to laugh with each other – humour can really help!
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What are the pitfalls you face as a step parent? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!