Why is it so hard being a step parent?
So, you find yourself remarried, or married to someone who has children. Now you’re the step parent and may be thinking what do I do now? It’s no question that being a step parent can be very overwhelming, but a rewarding responsibility as well. The children you are now helping to raise have established their relationship with their parents, and probably has different values than you. You may question where you fit in and what to do next without alienating the children. These are all valid questions.
When stepping into that new role of stepparent, there will be many adjustments. Your adjustments happen as you begin to take on this new role as a co-parent; the children must adjust by welcoming someone else into their lives and accepting them as an authoritative figure and new partner for their parent; the family unit must adjust as new dynamics are formed.
How can you create a safe & welcoming environment for your step children:
- Be reliable in what you say and do. This is a new relationship for you both, so it is important to keep your word as you are developing trust.
- Listen to their opinions and needs. Knowing that the children are adjusting, it can help build their trust if they see you are willing to listen to the good or bad.
- Empathize with them. Because the relationship is new, their feelings will change and emotions may be at an all-time high; do not take anything personally in the midst of this big change.
- Encourage them to be better. Show them that you are trying to be better, and in return it may encourage a positive change in the children’s behavior.
The other parent:
Parenting already has its challenges, so it is to no surprise that adding in an additional parent may not feel like the best thing at the beginning. Nobody wants to think about their children being parented by another person who may have different values and ideas. It is important to communicate and to set the appropriate boundaries for all to feel comfortable and make the transition as smooth possible for the benefit of the children. Creating and respecting those boundaries can show respect for one another, and help create a solid foundation for the children. It is important to avoid being negative about any biological or stepparents that may be in the picture. Speaking negatively can affect the children’s relationship with that person as well as letting the child believe that it is ok to speak that way about someone else. If an issue arises between the adult parties, make sure the children are not put in the middle. No child should become a pawn or messenger for you and another party. As you are creating this new relationship and finding sense of the new “normal”, keeping the children’s best interest at the forefront will provide a guidepost for future actions.