Strategies for Step Parents
If parenting is the hardest job in the world then step parenting must be close to impossible! Statistics show that half of all Americans will be in a step relationship at one point in their lifetime. What is the secret to great step relationships? Many times putting simple daily principles into practice over time will produce the results you are looking for.
Here are 10 tips to help you become a successful step parent:
- Understand the differences between step families and first families.
Step families are formed out of a loss from death or divorce, resulting in the dissolution of the first family. Children, at any age, may assume their step family will be a re-creation of their first family, often resulting in expectations impossible to fulfill. The key to re-defining "family" is to develop an identity as a group. Hobbies and interests encourage bonding. Whether it is rock collecting, traveling, or Sunday get-togethers, develop a unique identity for your group.
- Don't expect an instant relationship.
While you cannot expect instant attachment or love, you can expect to be treated respectfully. Model respectful behavior towards your step children and let them see you set the example. Encourage trust by never making negative comments about the biological parent or siblings around your step children.
- Discipline by the biology book.
When it comes to discipline for step children, biology is the key!! Once you and your spouse have set the rules in your home, let the biological parent take the lead, especially with older children. If the biological parent is absent and the step parent must discipline, take the position of "adult in charge," not parent.
- Get the "You're Not My Parent" conversation out of the way quick!
No matter the age, this topic is inevitable. When it happens, be confident and clear about who you ARE. You may consider actually saying: "You're right; I'm not your parent. You have a mom and a dad and I do not intend to replace them." If the child has overstepped one of the rules and the biological parent is unavailable to handle the situation, you may need to add, "At the moment, I am the adult in charge. Here is the rule you are expected to keep in this house."
- Keep a united front up front. When problems arise the kids need to see you and your spouse in agreement. Develop an expected code of behavior for the entire household that applies to ALL children present. If you and your spouse are having a disagreement over discipline, go for a walk and air your differences. But when the kids are watching…you two are one!!
- Carve out one-on-one time with each child.
While creating a group identity is key to becoming a family, one-on-one time is key for developing a good relationship with your step child. Find time to spend alone together. Where possible, get yourself into their world. Consider volunteering on your step child's sports team or rearrange your schedule to drive to or from school. Drive time in the car can be a good time to communicate.
- Avoid creating competition.
Your biological children crave your undivided attention and it is important to spend special time with them. Help your step children to avoid feeling left out by keeping your special times with biological children low key. Don't make a big deal out of what you do when the step kids are away.
- Make a daily attitude check.
When it comes to your step kids, become the poster person for a positive attitude!! Every day, make a conscious effort to forgive the small hurts that eventually add up to a big grudge. No matter how stressful the situation gets, never resort to criticism or sarcasm when communicating with your step children.
- Avoid the split personality approach to step parenting!
Scheduling step life can be brutal. Two days here, one night there; the whole family can end up with a spilt personality! Remember, your kids may be important members of two households. When schedules clash, put the child's needs first even if it means extra driving, inconvenient timing, or a missed opportunity for you. Your child will remember your cooperative attitude more than anything else.
- Keep the success of your marriage in focus.
The most vulnerable relationship in the house is your marriage relationship. It may feel selfish at times, but do whatever it takes to keep your marriage in good shape. Statistics show one of the main causes for divorce in step families is the stress of step parenting. Set aside "alone time" with your spouse and guard that time carefully.
The above is from: http://www. flc.org/hfl/parenting/stepparents. htm
Reprinted with the permission of A-better-child.org. © 2006 - 2008, A-Better-Child.org
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