Becoming a stepparent can be daunting. Figuring out your role as a stepparent — aside from the day-to-day responsibilities that come with it —may lead to confusion, uncertainty or even conflict between you and your partner, your partner’s Ex and/or the kids.
There is a lot of information and advice out there to help you navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of step-parenthood, including (we think) what we provide here at SteppingThrough. However, we appreciate how busy life can get and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. So, in an attempt to help make things a little easier we’ve put together some tips highlighting some of the things to do and/or to bear in mind, as you figure it out and adapt to your new role.
- Let go of the Brady Bunch fantasy and work with the here and now.
- Relationships between stepparents and stepchildren vary widely from one family to the next and with each child in the stepfamily.
- Start out slow and try not to rush into things.
- The first couple of years are typically chaotic as everyone jockeys for their new position in the family.
- Set aside time for your own interests and activities – self-care and self-compassion are important.
- For better or for worse, your stepchild’s extended family is part of your stepfamily.
- Learn to live with the reality of an Ex and that there is another person that has a hand in some of the big decisions that affect you and your family.
- Stay open minded about how/when things are done or celebrated.
- Focus, and spend your energies, on that which you have some control.
- Be aware of feelings, the good the bad the ugly. Also remain mindful that feelings are temporary and they do pass, (even the ugly ones).
- Stay flexible, adaptable to changes and communicate often and clearly.
- With Your Spouse
- Develop a strong couple bond.
- Define your role with spouse.
- Encourage your spouse and children to spend some time together without you.
- Ask your spouse to actively support you.
- Present a united front to the children.
- Remember no one is a mind reader so you have to put your expectations out there, negotiate and agree upon them.
With Your Stepchildren
- Be yourself.
- Do not try to replace the child’s parent or compete with them.
- Be patient. Relationships with stepchildren take time to develop.
- Respect existing family traditions and help create new family rituals and traditions.
- Support stepchildren’s relationships with both biological parents.
- Remember that stepchildren’s actions do not necessarily reflect directly upon you or what you stand for.
- Be the support but not the disciplinarian. (Where possible let the biological parent discipline their children).
- House rules matter. Keep rules as consistent as possible for all kids (appropriate to their ages and stages of development), whether they’re your kids from a previous relationship, your partner’s kids from a previous relationship, or children you’ve had together.
The above tips can be downloaded in a printable poster here: New Stepparent Tip Sheet
We’d love you to share what tip you might pass on to new stepparents, the one piece of advice someone gave you which made all the difference or the one piece of advice you wish you had received as a new stepparent.