Tips for Step Parenting

Step dad hanging out with step son.

Blending a Family

After the loss of a spouse, through death or divorce, finding a new partner is exciting! Just as exciting, but more cause for anxiety, is the blending of two different lives. Being a parent is challenging; being a stepparent is even more difficult. Even if you weren’t warring with the established and widespread “evil stepparent” tropes, you would still be stepping into an intimate role with a young person who may not be inclined to accept you unconditionally. Fortunately, there are some guidelines you can follow as a stepparent to help create a positive and healthy relationship between you and your stepchildren.

Tips for Step Parenting

  • Ease into a relationship. Even if you feel thrown into the role of parent, remember that you are not the primary parent, and shouldn’t pretend to be. Never forget that your partner and stepchild have a bond that was formed long before you came on the scene. This doesn’t mean you will never play an important role in the child’s life, as an important parental figure, but it does mean that you should refrain from coming on too strong, instead letting the child set the pace for getting to know each other. Most of the time, if you are patient, showing interest in them while giving them time to warm up to you, children will give you a chance.
  • Don’t try to be the cool parent. It’s not a competition. You’re not competing with your partner and, more importantly, you’re not competing with the ex. Don’t let your insecurity or ego cause you to overstep and try to ingratiate yourself with the children, making them want or need you more than the original parent. Children see through this sort of thing, and it will cause conflicts between the adults.
  • Don’t let existing familial bonds make you feel threatened. You and your partner are creating a new family, but the old family had a history before you came into the picture. Accept this, integrating the past into the present by asking occasional questions in an interested way. Move forward, while respecting what came before, without trying to upstage it. Additionally, encourage your stepchild to spend one-on-one time with each of their biological parents. This sends a message that you are not in competition, and you just want everyone to be truly happy.
  • Prioritize the needs of the child. We all have big feelings sometimes, but as a parent, it’s important that you focus on the children’s feelings rather than your own. Aim for selflessness in your interactions, setting high standards for your own coping skills. This doesn’t mean that your emotional needs are not important, but it’s up to you to make sure they are met in appropriate ways. Take time for yourself, to socialize, exercise, and generally practice self-care, and when you are interacting with the child it will be easier to put your emotions on the back burner. Don’t take it personally if your stepchild doesn’t seem to be taking to you. Remember that the child needs to mourn the loss of the original family.
  • Know how to respond to hostility. Will your stepchild yell at you that you are not his or her real parent? It is incredibly likely. Knowing this, take the time to prepare your response. Don’t try to argue, but acknowledge the truth of the statement. Tell the children that while you are not their biological parent, you are a stepparent who loves them. Responding to hostility with a calm, loving response is a great way to defuse it. If it doesn’t? Take a deep breath and move on.
  • Get on the same page with the other parents. This means discussing parenting techniques, methods, and philosophies with your spouse, but it also means addressing these things with the other biological parent. When all the parents are in accord on how things should be done, it makes parenting easier for everyone.
  • Talk it out. Regularly touch base with each other as a family, setting aside family time in which everyone can share how they’re feeling. Ask the kids to be honest, sharing positive and negative feedback, so that you can make your family stronger and better.
  • Create routines to build strong family bonds. Spend one-on-one time with your stepchild, doing something together once or twice a week. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it can be something as simple as cooking together, as long as you have time to share, listen, and bond. Establish routines as a family, too, like game night, special celebrations on birthdays and minor holidays, and regular family meals. Time together can help the family bond and become more united.
  • Keep your expectations in check. You are unlikely to step into a child’s life and immediately have a strong bond, and you can’t force it by trying too hard. By the same token, you are not likely to be accepted as an authority figure if you over-discipline to try to establish your authority. Take it easy, avoid overstepping your bounds, and keep your expectations realistic. It’s ok, you will eventually develop a relationship, and you can have a happy, healthy, blended family.

Growing into a Family, Together

At the Center for Vasectomy Reversal, we love helping people grow their happy families. We pride ourselves on helping men improve their fertility through uncompromising, concierge-level patient care. Under the direction of Dr. Joshua Green, our team provides state-of-the-art treatment for men who need a reversal of their vasectomy or have other fertility concerns. To learn more, contact us through our website or call 941-894-6428.