Being A StepParent - Dos and Don'ts
Being a stepparent is not easy, especially if the child refuses to accept you. If you are a stepparent or are about to become one, you are at the right place. I have had a stepmother for the last decade or so, so I know what I am talking about when I say there are things that a stepparent should never do. Being a stepparent does not mean that you should have no control over what happens in the home, you are still a parent and are required to act as one. Here are a few things you should and should not do as a stepparent.
A Few Things Stepparents Should and Should Not Do
Respect the child's space
Don't give the impression that you are a replacement
Give the child time to know and accept you
Don't bribe the child
Discuss beforehand what you are to be called
Don't force your ideas and beliefs
Spend quality time with the child
Don't force the child to call you 'Mommy' or 'Daddy'
Do respect the child's space
Whether it is their bedroom, play area, or other personal space, it is important for you to respect their space. When they want to be alone in their bedroom or wherever in the house they may be, let them have that time alone. Avoid forcing the child to show physical display of emotion towards you such as hugging or kissing. If you do this, you are imposing on their personal space and they are likely to resent you for it.
Give the child time to know you
Do give the child time to get to know you and accept you for who you are. If you force yourself on the child, they may pull away from you. Allow them to get to know you in their own time. A child is naturally curious and will want to find out what you like and do not like. When they figure out what type of person you are, then they can grow to love you for who you are and not because you have joined the family.
My way or the highway!
Do learn how the child is used to things being done around the home. Gradually introduce your way to the child. If you approach matters with a 'My way or the high way' attitude, there may be many problems. It is not fair to the child to have everything turned upside down because you are there. It is also not fair for you to have to change your way of doing things to fit in with the family members. Gradually introduce your way of doing things to the child and pay attention to how they do it. For example, if the way you cook is different from what they are used to, invite them join you in the kitchen while you prepare a meal. Who knows, they may prefer your way.
Do not force your practices and ideas of how things should be done on the child. In every family, there are going to be tasks that are carried out differently. For example, I think cooked plantains should be nice and soft while my stepmother thinks they should be hard enough to cut without squashing it. Both of us are neither right nor wrong, we just have different likes. Make compromises, try doing something the child's way (with thought), and encourage them to try it your way.
What do I call you?
Do discuss with your partner and the child what you are to be called. Aunty or something else that is respectful is one way to start. Do not force the child to call you Mommy or Daddy
Do you think step parents should be allowed to discipline children?
Do discuss with your partner the ways in which you can enforce discipline without crossing boundaries. Some people believe that step-parents are not to discipline children, while others believe they can lay down the law just as well as any other parent. Do not discipline the child without first agreeing with how this is to be done with the other parent. Discuss disciplining before you even move in with the family, especially if your children will be moving in with you, your partner, and their children. Can you imagine what can happen if you believe in spanking your children and your partner does not?
You are NOT a replacement
Do not give the child the impression that you are there to take the place of their parent. You will be acting in the same role but you are not there to 'replace' anyone. It is unreasonable to expect the child to accept you if you are acting as if their birth mother or father did not exist. If you acknowledge the life (and/or death) of their parent, things will flow a bit smoother. One way to prevent the 'replacement' feeling is to allow the child to keep photos or memorabilia of their parent if they want to. I doubt you will want a glamor shot of your spouses' ex-mate in full display. So if it bothers you, ask them to keep it in their bedroom or somewhere private.
Do not use treats to earn the child's love. Even biological parents tend to do this but that does not make it right. Allow the child to know and love you for who you are.
Try not to show preference. If you have children that are joining this new family with you, be careful of being bias.
Spend quality time with the child and get to know them. Find out their likes and dislikes