Now that you and your partner are officially an item, the next hurdle to jump is getting the kids to like you and if all goes well, to accept you.
But be warned, being a stepparent comes with its own challenges.
Tension is not only felt by you, but also the children and everyone involved in co-parenting. The children will worry about what title to call you.
Your spouse will worry about how accommodating the children will be towards you. On the other hand, the biological parent will tend to be run with thoughts on how the new partner will treat their children.
Factoring in all these concerns, which happen to be very genuine, as a stepparent, there are boundaries you should ensure they never cross if they want to establish a happy home.
- Acting as a replacement
Whether the biological parent is present or deceased, your stepchild should not have to think that you are trying to replace them. You ought to let the child love their parent as much as they did when they were around. And please don’t insist on the ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ tag.
A stepchild can love and respect you without having to refer you with parent titles. If your stepchild gets the impression that you are trying to take the place of their parent, they might be resentful towards you. It is therefore important to assure them that you are an addition to the family rather than a replacement to their other parent.
- Physically disciplining your stepchildren
Physically disciplining your stepchildren is a line you should never ever cross as a stepparent. It is not your call and should not be encouraged no matter how deserving. If you feel your stepchildren’s behaviour require physical infliction, refrain from it and bring it to your spouse’s attention.
As a stepparent, you may be overwhelmed with frustration but you have to ensure that you do not lose it. Physical actions inflicted on a child by a stepparent can be long-lasting and could result in the loss of trust and respect or the chance of building any connection with the new family.
- Assuming authority sooner
If your stepchildren are younger than five years old, assuming a commanding role often is acceptable. They are less likely to challenge your authority and will gladly accept you as the authoritative figure. For school-going children especially teenagers, they will often attempt to bring down your authority.
It would be assuring for your elder stepchildren if you try befriending rather than flexing your authority. A new stepparent should always seek to support instead of trying to keep the children in line. This will earn you love and respect from both your spouse and your stepchildren.
- Over involvement
As a stepparent you should never attempt to give your opinions whenever your spouse and the ex are having a parenting discussion. No matter how tempting, refrain from it. The ex is most likely to feel attacked when you give unsought and unsolicited advice. This might be the case especially if the ex is still hurting from a divorce or bad breakup. For this reason, keep your opinions to yourself unless asked.
- Involvement in conflicts not concerning you
As is normal in every family, heads will clash. So should your spouse and stepchild be involved in a tiff that results in an argument, keep out of it no matter how tempted you may be to get involved. Don’t stick your head even if you think your opinion matters. You don’t have to run to the rescue in such situations as you might make it even worse. If you get involved and support either of them, the other will feel certain resentment towards you.
Having a stepfamily creates a new experience for everyone involved. A stepparent is required to associate well with members of the new family in order to establish a peaceful foundation. As a stepparent, you should therefore aim to be more welcoming and refrain from crossing boundaries that will disrupt peace in the home.
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