Developing happiness and harmony in any family can be difficult. However, blended families can cause another level of difficulty. Sometimes, it can take years for stepfamilies to find a routine that works for everyone. My Daddy was actually my step-father, but he was my Daddy in every sense of the word, except for the biology. He excelled at step-parenting and when he passed recently it really made me realize just how blessed I was to have him in my life. Here are my 9 tips for step-parents that my Daddy lived by.
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9 Tips For Step-Parents
1. Communication with your spouse
Communication with your spouse is extremely important. You need to make sure that you are both on the same page. Here are a few questions you might want to ask your spouse:
- What role do you want me to play with your child?
- What should I do? Shouldn’t do?
- How will we give each other feedback?
- How will we gage if it is going ok?
You should also think about what role or level of parenting you want or feel comfortable doing and let your spouse know. You need to feel comfortable too and it is extremely important that you feel safe with telling your spouse.
Communication with your spouse is extremely important especially if you don’t want your relationship to suffer during this transition time.
2. Focus on individual relationships
I know that most parents will be eager to be “one big happy family.” However, that might not be a tangible goal. In the beginning, it might be a better idea to keep things small. The emphasis on individual relationships early on can be crucial for the future of your relationships. Step-parents need the time to bond and get to know their step-children.
Try to set aside 20-30 minutes a day to spend some one-on-one time with your step-children. Use this time to really get to know them and learn who they are outside of the rest of the family. This gives you the chance to find common interests and create building blocks for a strong and meaningful relationship.
3. Be supportive of the children
Going from one home to another and having to deal with a new type of family dynamic can be difficult for children. Keep this in mind in case feelings erupt or small incidents tend to set off children. This is all new to them and they are still learning how to deal with the emotions they are feeling. Allow the children to feel the way they feel and allow them to cry because this teaches them that they can come to you and you will be understanding. Be accepting and positive when it comes to your children and their feelings.
4. Speak respectfully of the other parents
Be mindful of your partner’s former partner. It might not have worked out for them romantically, but they do still share their children. They might need time to adjust to someone else playing such a crucial role in their child’s lives. In the early years, it might be better for you to allow conversations about the children to be between your spouse and their ex. After the first few years, you can feel it out and see if you might be welcomed into those conversations. It really depends because all situations are different depending on the personal preferences of the people involved.
Over time my mom and step-mom became good friends and had no problem sharing events, dates, parties, etc…and both of my Dads got along too. It just takes time and patience.
5. Find someone you can confide in
Times might get hard and you might have moments where you feel alone. It is important for you and your mental health to find someone that you can confide in. Speaking to your spouse is important, but you need someone outside of the family that you can talk to. Maybe a friend or another step-parent that know exactly how you are feeling.
6. Find activities that unite everyone
It is important to find activities to do as a family that unites everyone and doesn’t alienate. Sometimes step-parents can feel left out of whatever traditions or rituals that were already created before they came along. Find activities that the step-parents and step-children can do together to help bridge the gap. Make new traditions and rituals.
7. Never force it
This is huge. Never force it. Even though I called my step-dad “daddy” and he is my daddy, he never once asked me to or tried to force me to. It was my choice and it was based on the bond we created together. The relationship will mean so much more if it evolves naturally and isn’t forced.
8. Find a place you can run to
Find a place you can go to unwind. Parenting, in general, can make you feel burnt out, but you add step-parenting in there and it can feel even more overwhelming. Sometimes, you might feel like you need to let your spouse handle certain situations alone, make sure you have a place you can go to unwind or give them space.
9. Have zero expectations
You don’t want to go in with too high of expectations because you might be setting yourself up for failure. However, have high hopes because the children really do feel if your intentions are sincere.
In closing, remember you are a team. The best thing you can do for the child or children is to get along. Times will be difficult and you might feel like you aren’t making any progress. However, I urge you to hang in there. Being a step-parent can be very rewarding.
On a personal note, my Dad NEVER made me feel like I was his step-child. I never felt any different than my brother. In fact, most people had no idea he wasn’t my biological father, and we wouldn’t have had it any other way. Your relationship can be what you make of it. Just decide from day one that it is worth your time and effort.
“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31