Step Parenting: Preparing Yourself For The New Role

Step Parenting

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“A step parent is so much more than a ‘parent.’ They made the choice to love, even when they did not have to.” This beautiful quote about step parents offers a stark contrast to what most people in society still perceive step parents to be. While being a parent is considered one of the sweetest and most emotional experiences in life, step parents can have it quite hard.

From accepting someone else’s child as your own to sharing that love and concern and putting in extra effort, there is a lot a step parent does. If you want to make this ride a little smoother for yourself, check out our step parenting 101 guide below.

3 Common Problems Faced In Step Parenting:

As a step parent, you do not want to look like the wicked witch or the evil step parent of fairy tales. In the real world, while there are many instances of happy blended families, it is true that there are also instances of problems and issues that a step parent and child face. Here are some of the most common step parenting issues and a way to take care of each:

1. Have Different Attitudes Towards Parenting:

As an adult, and as a parent (if you have biological kids), your approach to parenting could be different from your partner’s. One of the most important issues that you may face as part of being a blended family is to come to an agreement about what type of disciplinary structure and home routine you want to follow.

When you step into a family where your partner already has children, it can often mean that you are entering a zone where there are already pre-set expectations and assumptions made. Also, your partner may like to treat your step child in a particular way and may have a different way of punishing and awarding the kid. It is not necessary that you will be in agreement with it all, but it is important that you try and create a balance.

A Solution: Instead of confronting your partner, present your views in a friendly way. Try to refrain from adopting a preachy tone, which can cause your partner to feel threatened and insecure. Instead, say something such as “I know you already have your reasons and know what’s best, but I was wondering if you would like to try out so-and-so approach. I have seen it work, so maybe you too could try it if you wish.”

[ Read: Ways To Enhance Your Parenting Skills ]

2. Lack Of Respect – Nip It In The Bud:

When you are a step parent, you know that there will be some amount of hostility towards you in the family, especially from the kids. While it is advisable not to get into the relationship with an idea of being welcomed with love, you sure do not want to be disrespected.

Your step children may not like you and may not want to listen to you at all, but that does not mean they have the right to treat you with disrespect. It is one possibility you should still be practical about, and know that it can happen. In case you feel your step children disrespect you, do not retort with an equally disrespectful behavior. Instead, be the grown up that you are and handle it in a more mature and sensitive way.

Remember that your step children are going through a tough phase where they have to look up to you as a parent instead of the biological parent. Not only will they be confused about what led to the split and why the biological parents cannot get together, but also be angry.

A Solution: Do not take it personally or react in a heated state of mind. Instead, speak to your partner once you cool down and when the children are not around. Make sure you do not take an accusatory tone but do tell your partner that you love the children and the lack of respect hurts and bothers you. Tell him that unless the kids start respecting you, you could not create a mutually loving and positive environment at home. Leave it to your partner to explain it to his children.

3. Zero Interest From Step Children:

It is one thing to ward off disrespect and anger from your step children and another to make them pay attention to you. Separation of parents can have an extremely emotional affect on children, and some may withdraw from others. They cut themselves from whatever is causing them the discomfort and hurt. One of the biggest discomforts could be you as they see you as a replacement to their natural parent. They may not want to do anything with you and show no interest in building a relationship.

A Solution: Patience is the key. Start by taking baby steps to build mutual trust and confidence. Make sure that you are always there for your step children, so that they know they can come to you in times of need. You do not have to interfere with their activities but do it in a small but effective way so that they recognize your contribution.

5 Tips For Step-Parenting Toddlers:

Toddlers are at an age where they are extremely impressionable. If you manage to reach out to them in the right way, in most cases, you will be able to form a beautiful relationship. A toddler can also be at a stage where an assertion of will is kicking in, so you have to be alert and conscious of those little feelings. Here are a few tips that can help you bond better with your step toddler:

1. Feel The Love Within:

In order to truly bond with your step toddler, you have to first want to do it from the heart. Instead of just trying to do it because you are now part of the family, try and get that love for your step toddler in your heart. Toddlers can pick up human emotions and understand who loves them and who is just trying to be around, so make sure your emotions are real.

[ Read: Parenting Tips For Preschoolers ]

2. Spend Time With The Toddler:

Spend as much time as you can with your step toddler. In the first few months, include your partner in these times spent together. Once the toddler is more comfortable with you, you can be alone with him.

3. Be Hands On:

Do not wait for the toddler to get super comfortable with you before you start getting involved in regular, everyday activities. Instead, start by taking over certain daily routines around your toddler, such as changing the diaper, helping through meals, giving a bath, patting to sleep, reading a bedtime story and so on.

4. Form A Routine:

Toddlers will be most comfortable with a routine, so speak to your partner and establish one. Make an effort to stick to the routine each day, even if it means giving up on some of your hobbies or activities. Once the toddler is comfortable in the routine and sees you as part of the stable home environment, it will be easier for you both to bond.

5. Be Loving And Respectful Towards The Biological Parents:

Toddlers can be extremely territorial and possessive. Being respectful towards your partner and his ex will bring your step child nearer to you as he does not perceive you as a threat.

[ Read: How To Make A Step Family Work ]

5 Tips For Step-Parenting Teens:

One of the biggest challenges you may face as a step parent is blending into a family which has a teen or teens. Your step teen will already be aware of the situation, and there may be resentment towards the new entrant in the family. As a teen, your step child will have perceptions and ideas, which may or may not be favorable towards you. These tips could come in handy while dealing with such situation:

1. Blend In Slowly:

Do not enter your blended family with a bang. Keep things slow and low key. You may want to show your enthusiasm and excitement at being with the family, but sometimes it could come off as too loud or fake. Try to blend in slowly with the family even as you make your presence felt and heard.

2. Be Consistent In Your Feelings:

It may seem that nothing you do gets the approval of your step teen, but whatever you do, do not give up midway. It takes time to develop a bond, and it can be tough for your step teen to build that bond with a new person. Give it time and be consistent in your efforts and emotions.

3. Plan Things Together:

Try and involve your step teen in as many activities as you can, especially the ones that are of interest. Hand out important responsibilities and chores to show them that you value their opinion and presence. Involve them in your family discussions and ask what they think of certain situations. Also, make time to spend together with your step teen.

4. Do Not Interfere In Your Partner And The Teen’s Relationship:

You have to form a separate relationship with your step teen than the one your partner already has. Remember to give them their space and never try to come in between their relationship.

[ Read: Tips To Become A Better Parent ]

5. Do Not Take Things Personally:

In the end, trying to be the perfect step parent to a teen can be a thankless and a hurtful experience. Be realistic. Remember that your step teen has gone through a lot of emotional turmoil, which is bound to come out in some form. Do not get hurt by spiteful comments but treat them as an outlet for the teen’s anger and sadness.

8 Dos And Don’ts In Step Parenting:

As part of a new blended family, you already have a kid or kids from your partner’s previous relationship. When it comes to blending in with someone else’s kids, things can get a little more complicated than just being in a relationship as a couple. We have listed a few dos and don’ts to help you strike a chord with your step kids:


1. Be Yourself:

  • Step parents sometimes try hard to bond with their new children. This behavior might put forward you as a person which is not you.
  • For instance, you may want to buy toys and gifts for your step child to make friends with them, but your step child may feel that you are sugar-coating your feelings, and your efforts might backfire.
  • Instead of trying too hard to come across as nice, just be yourself. Try to develop a natural liking and interest towards your partner’s child and the bond will gradually develop.

2. Understand And Align To Your Partner’s Parenting Technique:

  • Understand your partner’s approach towards parenting and try to align your behavior around it. You may or may not agree with it, but the changes need to be brought in gradually.
  • If you begin to practice your way of parenting with your partner’s child, it could lead to conflict between you and your partner. Also, it could confuse your step child with different sets of expectations and limits in the house.
  • If you are unhappy with something your partner does as a parent and are not comfortable practicing it, speak to him about it.

3. Plan Some Alone Time With Your Step Child:

  • Whether you have your biological child or not, make sure you keep aside a lot of time for just you and your step child.
  • For the first few years of the relationship, you will need a lot of bonding to get those positive emotions from your step child.
  • Make time for your step child and provide him your undivided attention and care. Make sure you are there when your step child needs you, for instance at school events, during practice sessions, for carpool mornings, for help with school work and so on.

[ Read: Step Parent Adoption ]

4. Encourage Spending Time With Biological Parents:

  • You may feel that your step child spends more time with the biological parent than with you, thus reducing your chances of connecting with your step child. Do not feel threatened or insecure about it.
  • Encourage your step child to spend as much time as possible with the biological parents.
  • When you show your step child that you value the importance of family relationships, it will only help to form and strengthen the parenting bond you want to share.


1. Expect A Connection Immediately:

  • Whether or not you already have children of your own, do not assume that you will instantly connect with your step child. Even if you have interacted with him in the past and have had a positive relationship, becoming part of the family could be a very different ball game altogether.
  • Do not get into the relationship with very high expectations. In fact, look at it as starting your parenting journey from scratch, where every day will be a learning experience.
  • You may feel your step child does not like you and there is no connect whatsoever. You may not be able to bring on those parenting instincts towards your step child. Do not panic if things do not happen immediately.

2. Be Too Strict Or Demanding:

  • Do not set rules or guidelines for your step child to follow. It could make him resent you.
  • For at least the first year or so, let your partner, the biological parent take the decisions pertaining to the child.
  • Use the time to develop a stronger bond with your step child. Once you form that connection and your step child begins listening to you, you can try setting a few rules and help discipline your child.

[ Read: Family Rules For Parents ]

3. Get Affected With “You Are Not My Real Mom (Or Dad)”:

  • Even if you love and care for your step child as your own, it is possible that he does not see you as his parent.
  • During your time in the new family, you may often hear the phrase and accusation “You are not my mom (or dad).” It can be hurtful, but remember that all your step child is doing here is expressing his hurt and anger. Do not feel guilty or heartbroken if you hear your step child say this out loud to you. Instead, accept it as truth and try to find new and better ways to work around it.
  • Tell your step child that you are a step parent but still love and care for him as much as the biological parent does.

4. Take It As A Personal Affront:

  • While adjusting to the new role is no cakewalk for you, it is even more difficult for your step child. Give him time.
  • When the biological parents divorce, many children hope that they would unite. However, when you become part of the family on a permanent basis, it brings home the fact that the breakup is for real.
  • The step child may see you as the cause of their permanent break-up.
  • Understand that the reason your step child is so difficult or negative towards you is not because of you as a person. Instead, the reason is the role you have filled up. For your step child, that place rightfully belonged to the biological parent.

Parenting is an interesting journey full of love, hope, positivity, friendship and also ups and downs. As a step parent, you may find the journey tougher than a biological parent, but it is not something you cannot work on. What are your tips for parenting a step child?

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