Step Parenting – How To Prepare Yourself for the New Role
Being a step parent can be extremely rewarding as you get to play a major role in moulding a young mind. The responsibility of having to be a role model must be seen as the opening up of brand new opportunities and not an unrequited chore.
Most Common Step Parenting Problems
Stepping in as a parent immediately changes the dynamics of all the inter-personal relationships between you and the other members of the family. As it were, you, or your family, are merging with another family, with a history of their own.
Below are some of the step-parent struggles you would have to face as well as solutions to tackle them:
- Differing Parenting Styles
The joy and energy you’ve found in the romance department has left you hopeful of enjoying a warm and stable domestic life. However, you may find that things change when a child comes into the equation.
It all comes down to communication, communication and more communication! Not only will you both have different styles of parenting, but your experiences would be vastly different as well. New parents, usually discover the dynamics of parenting as their child grows up and we suggest that new step-parents wade into this territory slowly. Two things are for sure, you are in this together, and you are the adults here. Like the aeroplane safety instructions say, you need to secure your own oxygen mask before you can help others, so all issues between you and your partner need to be solved first.
- Relationship Between Step Parent And Step Child
Now, this one is where step-parents think they actually are prepared. After all, you’ve been stressing out about being accepted by your partner’s child since the moment you learnt of them. Like we mentioned before, overreaching may come across as either scary or weak.
Remember that your stepchild has their own personality, history and life experiences. It is easy to be weirded out by a full-grown adult that is relatively new to them trying to impose themselves into their life. Take your time. Familiarity comes slow – you aren’t there to play a fixed role, the best you can do is to be you and form a genuine relationship with the person that is your stepchild.
- Relationship Between You and Your Child
Now this is a tricky one! Just as you find yourself adjusting to life with your new partner and their child, your child finds their life toppled over too. The customs and habits of the new people seem odd; they are required to share space and attention and possessions with more siblings now rather than fewer, it’s a big challenge for them!
You need to talk to your child about what to expect. It can all get overwhelming easily. Let them know that you are in it together. Even as you assure them that you are in it together, steer clear away from creating an atmosphere of us vs them.
- Relationship Between The Step-Siblings
It is true that children make friends easily. For the most part, that is the case, as long as those friends are classmates and schoolmates that they see for a fixed amount of time in a neutral setting. Siblings on the other hand, are legendary spatters. However, siblings, in the end, are siblings. Forced siblings are a different matter!
Do not encourage them bad mouthing their new step-siblings or step-parent in any way; however, shutting them down outright is not helpful either. Let them share their troubles, be understanding. The first goal is simply co-existence.
- Relationship Between Your Partner And Their Child
One needs to accept that step-parent struggles include things out of the boundary of one’s control. The relationship between your partner and their child is one of these aspects of life as a step parent.
Letting go is part of parenting too. Do not force your issue and do not try to convince your partner their child needs “fixing”. Discuss constructive changes and systematic behavioural training that equips the child positively instead of looking for fast-track ways to make them accept you.
Tips For Step Parenting Preschoolers And Toddlers
Step parent advice for parents of very young kids differs significantly from those of more mentally developed children.
1. Spend Time With Them
Young kids can respond to you and grow accustomed to having you in their life, much more easily than older ones. For the first few months, spend time with them in the company of your partner and later, move on to spending alone time with them.
2. Get In There
Being a step parent doesn’t mean you are exempt or ineligible to help out with your stepchild’s daily routine. Support your partner by helping with meals, baths, changing diapers, etc.
Though hard, you will need to be with your stepchild every day. You cannot have one meeting with them and not show up for the next two weeks. Let them get used to you and know that you are a part of their life.
4. Stay Tight
If a toddler perceives that you are comfortable and respectful to their biological parent, they are more likely to warm up to you, as they won’t see you as a threat.
5. Learn To Love Them
Children know when you love them, and when they feel loved, it is reciprocated!
Tips For Step Parenting Older Children
Parenting older children is tricky territory. With their life experiences and prejudices, it may prove to be a tough job.
- Show Up
While you can’t muscle your way into a person’s mind, you can still be a steady source of comfort. Older children have their own mind and make it up as they see fit. While they may not take to you immediately, having a constant source of support in their life is essential, and as a parent, that is what you are there for!
2. Don’t Rush It
Your stepchild is dealing with a new adult living with their family in the same house. It’s overwhelming ,and every step-parent should avoid coming on too strong. Familiarity comes slow.
3. Get Them Involved
Mutual respect is the key to establishing a meaningful relationship. Show them you value their input by involving them in planning household activities and chores. You have to be vulnerable sometimes. As Benjamin Franklin observed, one of the quickest ways to turn around the negative attitude of a person toward you is to ask them for their help.
4. Do Not Seek To Substitute Their Biological Parents
This step is self-explanatory. Your partner’s alone time with your stepchild is sacred. The same applies to their other parent, if they are still involved in the child’s life.
5. Stay Consistent
As a step-parent coming into the life of a child, keep in mind that you are not entirely responsible for the relationship. Every relationship is a two-way street, and just because you show up, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will too! So, don’t take this personally. This may be the most important of the rules to follow as a step-parent!
Do’s And Don’ts For Successful Step-Parenting
1. Be Yourself
Recognize that your stepchild is a person of their own, just as you are, and be yourself, just as you would be with a friend or colleague. Being yourself is one of the usually unsaid rules for step parenting that holds a lot of importance.
2. Observe And Learn How You Parent
Parenting is a two person job and you and your partner need to work out your methodologies. Communicate with each other. Your own style of parenting is something that develops over time, so be careful to observe what works and doesn’t and evolve your parenting method as you go.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Alone Together
You will need to spend time alone with your step-child. This may be just for convenience sake or out of circumstance. Helping your child out with their school and extra-curricular activities is a great way to get to know them and vice versa.
4. Let Them Spend Time With Their Biological Parents
Let your stepchild know that you value their relationships with their biological parents – with your actions. A child will respect this importance you place on family connections.
1. Expect Everything At Once
It would be convenient for you if everything went smoothly, i.e., your new stepchild accepts you right away, and you can dive into your new family life without a hiccup. Hoping this is the case will impair you from working effectively in forming a connection with your stepchildren.
2. Come In Hard
You and your stepchild are two persons that are unfamiliar with each other. So, don’t treat them as if you’ve known them for their whole lives. This is the absolute basic fault that classical fairy tale storytelling uses to portray step parents as villains (think Cinderella or Snow White!).
3. You Are Not Their “Real” Parent
You may almost certainly be subject to hearing the stereotypical rant of “You are not my real Mom (or Dad)”. Do not take it personally. It only changes in the long run.
4. It’s Not Personal
Always keep in mind that as tough as the new role of being a step parent may be for you, it is tougher to accept for your stepchild. When they react badly or seem aloof, it is not always because they do not like you as a person or because you failed at step-parent rights and wrongs.