In general, parenting is a difficult job and for a stepparent, this job is not only difficult but also confusing. Although stepparenting is common, the initial formation of this relationship can be challenging. It’s difficult to figure out whether a stepparent should act as the parent from the start or just see what happens as they grow into this new relationship. Struggle with co-parenting, unclear roles, conflicting parenting styles and culture, and issues with communication are some of the concerns many stepfamilies have.
Many stepparents feel they have the responsibility of a biological parent but not the authority and the respect to match. It takes time for blended families to get used to the new family dynamics. For some families, the transition period is short, while for others it takes years. Stepparenting is not a one approach fits all, instead each family has to figure out a way that works for them.
When it comes to adjusting and forming new relationships, younger children generally have an easier time than older children. To have a stepparent who seemingly is taking the place of a biological parent is hard to accept for many children. This factor plays a huge role in the many challenges faced in this relationship. In the initial stages, it’s important for the stepparent to start with a slow and friendly interaction with the child. This is a slow process and it’s crucial not to rush into it.
Here are a few tips to make the stepparenting role less challenging:
- Try to build a harmonious relationship with the biological parent.
- Set consistent house rules to follow.
- Learn about the child’s interests, share talents and skills, and engage in family group activities.
- Remind them that you are not there to replace their parent, but there as an additional person to provide them with love, support, and guidance. With some children you’ll have to earn the “parental” status.
- Don’t try forcing your way in, but instead, let the children set the pace of the relationship.
- Encourage the stepchildren to have a loving relationship with both their biological parents.
- Accept that it will take time and effort to build a successful stepparent-stepchild relationship.
- When needed, seek individual or family therapy to help you navigate your role as a stepparent.
There are no set rules to stepparenting, do what works best for your family’s situation. With time, patience, and the right intentions, a successful and loving stepparenting relationship can be possible to achieve.
Being a step-parent. (2019, April 10). Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/family-diversity/blended-families-stepfamilies/being-a-step-parent
Cottrill, J. (2018, September 13). Stepfamily Situations: Roles and Expectations. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/stepfamily-situations-roles-expectations
Jensen, T. M., & Harris, K. M. (2016). Stepfamily Relationship Quality and Stepchildren’s Depression in Adolescence and Adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 5(3), 191-203. doi:10.1177/2167696816669901
Stepparenting: It Takes Two. (2020, June 23). Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/stepparenting-it-takes-two/