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Stepping up to Step-Parenting
The Choice Is Yours
When you begin a relationship with someone knowing that they have children, you make the choice to continue the relationship. Know that this relationship will never be just about you and the other person, it will always include the child(ren) as well.
The journey to bonding with your step-child begins as soon as your relationship with their parent does. There should be no "shock" or "surprise" once the vows are spoken. By the time you get married and become a step-parent you should be fully aware of who that child is, what his/her personality and disposition is, as well as what to expect from the "other parent". If you aren't fully aware of what you're getting into then you are either jumping in with your eyes shut, rushing too quickly, or are simply in denial.
Becoming a step-parent is a choice. It is one that should be taken seriously. If there are any hesitations or doubts in your mind; these issues need to be discussed before getting married.
Get To Know The Other Parent
In an ideal situation your husband (or wife) will have had time to heal from the break up from his/her ex. They will both be mature enough to co-parent, communicate, and have a civil relationship for the children's sake. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case, which often times adds stress to your relationship if not handle properly.
As reasonably as possible, get to know about the other parent. Your goal should be to obtain a civil relationship with that person, establishing trust and common understanding that you both are willing to do what is best for the children. Make sure that he/she knows you are not interested in "taking their place" in the child's life, that you love the child, and that you are willing to keep an open line of communication, respect for their position as the paternal parent, and that you genuinely care about the child(ren).
Making a positive connection with the other parent makes a big difference for the better. Children can see, hear, and sence tention between people they care about. A stressed relatioinship between their parents, regardless of how well they "try" to hide it, has a substantial negative impact on the child.
Bonding "The Right Way"
The amount of time you will be spending with your step-child, whether it be every other weekend or all of the time, should not change your approach to parenting. Children need structure, stability, and guidance to feel safe and secure in any given environment.
If you choose to be more of a "friend" than a parental figure, be sure you are aware of the repercussions that may arise from this choice. There may come a day when you regret this decision. It is more difficult to enforce house rules, safety concerns, curfews, and expectations when you are viewed as a friend.
If you have your own children from a previous relationship you will want to make sure you aren't showing favoritism or preferential treatment.
All children need to know they are loved. They need encouragement, approval, and acceptance. Talk with your step-child. Find out his/her interests. Respect their individuality. Try to find things you have in common that could strengthen your bond with them.
Above all NEVER put down the other parent in front of the child no matter how terrible the other parent might be. Reinforce their love for that parent and reassure him/her that the other parent loves them.
Love is Easy
"It isn't work if you love what you do"
All too often people make excuses for taking the easy way out, or for not giving their fullest. "Parenting is hard" or "Step-Parenting is hard"
It doesn't have to be. You are blessed with an extension of the person you love and married in that step-child. While specific situations can be challenging, it really is all how you look at it. Parenting and Step-Parenting is a blessing and a gift.
Embrace your new and extended family with all of your heart. Love and be loved. Enjoy one another. Support one another through the difficult and challenging times. Grow together, learn together, and appreciate one another.