ADVICE FOR STEP PARENTS
So you have fallen madly in love with an amazing person. You are vivacious and feel as if the world is at your finger tips. You spend amazingly wonderful quality time with your new love and things are moving in the right direction. You are ready for the next step because for the first time in your life…you are happy. This is the one you were meant to be with, but there is a kicker…he/she has kids. Talk about a complete 180. Your new love and new life as you know it will change forever. You will go from a single woman or man, to a bonafide step parent dealing with the same issues any birth parent deals with on a regular basis. Are you ready for it? Can you handle the task at hand? Here are some tips for you and your spouse on how to deal with ups and downs of being a step parent. My hope is to give you both the tools needed to be able to communicate with each other freely with regards to your children and how to discipline, etc.
Communicate with your partner
Communication is key. In any relationship, communicating is the single most important thing one can do. As a new step parent, make sure you and your spouse have discussed their comfort level with you taking the parental role. Lay down the expectations with them in the very beginning. Have a conversation and discuss with your spouse what you want as the step parent. If that’s taking a role in disciplining the children, or having some alone time with them so that you can bond, make sure you talk to your spouse first. If the both of you are on the same page, then everything can fall in to place nicely.
The best characteristic a step parent can have is being engaging. Play with your step children at the park. Help them with their homework. Take them to the movies or a ball game. Engage in their daily activities so that they feel as if you are interested in them as well, and not just their mom or dad. When the children are pubescent it may get a little more difficult, so be patient. If the other parent is still remotely in the picture, and the child is a teenager, the idea of a “happy-go-lucky” family may not always be the case. But that certainly does not mean it can not happen. It just means that you will have to be a little more patient and tolerant of certain things, at the same time, letting them know that you are here to stay and that’s that!
No Matter What, Remain the Adult
As easy as it may be to run around the playground and play all day with the kiddos, you have to remember that you are the adult. Tip #2 discusses how to engage with the children as that is very important, but always remember that you are the adult. Children have a way of manipulating the situation to cater their needs. Whether its intentional on their part or not, it still happens. What children need is direction, stability and structure. Find the right times to stay and play and know when it’s time to lay down the law as any parent would.
Entering a marriage with children can seem overwhelming. Or for some it may seem easy. But no matter what one expects, I can guarantee the outcome will be completely opposite. Regardless of birthing your children, sharing the same DNA, or marrying into a Brady family, the fact still remains the same…. You are now a parent. Your spouse and your new children need to respect the fact that a new person is in their lives. You demand the same level of respect that their father or mother would expect. So don’t ever forget that. And simply revel in the fact that you a now a parent. Enjoy your time with them and remember to always communicate. If things do not seem to go as planned, call in your reinforcements and schedule a therapy session either for yourself, or for the entire family. Sometimes family mediation just might be the answer.
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653