How To Be A Good Step-Parent and Stepmom
Being a Good Stepparent is Possible!
When I became a step parent almost 20 years ago, someone forget to give me a new owners manual on navigating step parenting and how to survive a blended family. And when I say blended it's definitely a blended mix, because not only are there 2 people in a love relationship (the new couple) but there are the children, who may or may not like the idea of having another parent on board: Then there are also the past significant others, who also may or may not be happy at the thought of you not only sleeping with their significant ex but also parenting their children.
It's quite an adventure, to say the least, and in the spirit of having been there and done that, I offer up a few good tips in how to be a good step-parent (or at least try!)
Can You Be a Good Step Parent?
Some Rules of Engagement in Step Parenting
First of all, remember that you are entering into an already made family. Even if the "real" mother/father of the children is or isn't in the picture now, they were at one point, and a relationship has already been established, whether good or bad.
Your new step children may be wildly ecstatic at having you as the new step-parent, or they might look at a you as the newest adversary on the block.
The significant exes may be feel the same about you, and all kinds of complications can arise if you don't keep a level head. After all, YOU are the one that has decided to come into this scenario, for better or worse, so don't come in expecting to save the day or start a whole new family. There are already certain ties established so you might as well get used to that fact!
So to make smoother sailing for your new step parenting role:
1. Accept that you are coming into already established relationships, whether good or bad, and prepare yourself for the consequences of that. Parents who have divorced or lost a parent can bring LOTS of emotional baggage into a new relationship, and so can the kids.
2. When you ARE feeling adversarial remember that old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer? This can apply here too, even though you may feel that you are the adversary try to keep all lines of communication open as humanly possible, as this will help not only the children thrive but establish boundaries for better relationships down the road.
3. NEVER AND I REPEAT NEVER, put the other parent down in front of your step-kids. This can put them in the position of feeling like they have to "PICK" who's best, and this is NEVER a good thing to do. EVER. This is their other parent, and they probably love their parent, and hatred or dislike between parents can cause IRREVOCABLE HARM. Putting kids in the middle is NEVER a good thing to do anyway, in any type of situation!
4. Listen to your step kids and to their dreams and goals. Most likely they just want to be able to know that's it's OK to be themselves, that you are there for the long haul and that you care about them now - and that you care about their future. (If you don't like this part you shouldn't have signed up for the job!) If you are not willing to be a parent to this child and help them in their life and to be a productive member of society, you might want to rethink if step-parenting is even the right role for you.
5. Try, and I say try, because this is sometimes a hard thing to do, NOT to show favoritism to your own children and/or children that may come in the future. Make sure that your stepchild knows that they are a loved and valued member of the family, and that they are not "Second Best".
6. Never ever "triangulate" between your spouse and the stepchild. Triangulation is a twisted relationship where 3 are involved, usually the parents and the stepchild. All kinds of manipulative and destructive behavior can occur when the child/ and or parents pit one against the other. Always keep in mind, that there is the relationship between you and your spouse without the child, the relationship between the real parent and the child without you, and the relationship between the stepchild and you, without the parent. Establishing these separate and distinct relationships early on can help you maintain proper boundaries and to remember that 3's a crowd when it comes to relationship differences.Yes you can have fun as a family but when it comes to differences NEVER EVER argue these out in front of the kids. Kids are smart and can pick up on indecision and loopholes, and before you know it it can and will be used against you!
Impossible You Say?
You may be faced with a situation that you feel is just flat out impossible to repair- that either the step-kids, the step parent or parent is just out of control, and that nothing you say or do seems to be right.
This is the time to step back out of the ring and re-access what is happening. Perhaps this is time for YOU to go get counseling. Even if they don't want to go to counseling go for yourself! It's very important to get wise advice on handling step parenting issues BEFORE they break up the family. Many things can be worked through, even the most difficult, if you are really committed to sticking it out with your step-family. And if you are faithful and stick it out, working through these problems will even strengthen the ties that once seemed impossible!
Being a good step-parent is not only possible but can be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a person. Raising and caring for someone else's child is no easy task - but it can be done, with insight and perseverance!
(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer, mother and step-mother)