What are some practical ways to help be the best step-parent possible?
Here are 5 Do’s:
- Do listen to the children and reflect their feelings. “Sounds like you’re angry . . . ” All kids want to be heard. This doesn’t mean you can’t enforce boundaries but you can still listen and empathize with them. For example, “I can see that you’re angry that we wouldn’t let you stay out later. You’re still going to be grounded for 2 days because you intentionally broke the curfew.” But let the bio parent deliver the punishment if at all possible especially if it is early in the relationship.
- Do keep your intimate dating relationship and PDA’s private.
- Do stay open to the children even if they first reject your friendly overtures. They have their own time frame so hang in there.
- Do speak positively about both bio parents. If there’s nothing good to say about the ex at the moment, say nothing. If there is a significant problem with placement and you can’t work it out, consider mediation.
- Do have a family meeting to resolve problems openly and patiently. Remember to speak about how you feel and drop the lectures (they don’t work anyways.)
Here are 5 Don’ts for Step-Parents:
- Don’t force roles onto the children such as having them call you mom or dad (especially if their bio parent objects and most will.)
- Don’t over-discipline the children especially in the beginning. (Step-dad’s tend to do this.) Instead, use your spouse’s capital. “Your mom said that she wanted these dishes done by tomorrow morning.”
- Don’t assume because you love each other that both of your children will automatically also have the same relationship. It takes time and patience.
- Don’t cross boundaries. Don’t discuss pet peeves with the ex or the children. Stay neutral and supportive. Even if an adolescent baits you into speaking badly about their bio parent, don’t take the bait.
- Don’t have double standards for your children versus your step-children. There will be uncertainty, you will work for resolution, you have to be open to their concerns throughout the process and you will slowly form bonds with these children. Sometimes it won’t be the intensely warm relationship you had hoped for (especially if the ex is extremely negative toward you.) But you can form your own special relationship if you stay patient, open and thoughtful.