10 Dos And Don'ts Of Step Parenting

Dos And Don'ts Of Step Parenting

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A parent’s love for their children is natural and unconditional. The bond establishes without much effort probably because it is biological.

But can a relationship between a stepparent and their child be as natural? It may not. However, it doesn’t mean that you cannot build it if you are sincerely working on it and having enough patience.

MomJunction takes you through all the facets of step-parenting and gives you some parenting advice to fasten a healthy relationship.

What Is Stepparenting?

Step-parenting means being a parent to your spouse’s biological children. When you marry a person who already has kids, you are going to be a stepparent to his/her children.

Although very special, step-parenting comes with its own problems as you have to love someone else’s child as your own and have love, warmth, and concern for the child.

It might be difficult, but can be fulfilling too.

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[ Read: What Is Conscious Parenting ]

What Are The Rewards Of Being A Stepparent?

There are several rewards of being a stepparent, such as:

1. You have the opportunity to play a key role in a child’s life.

You will have the chance to form a relationship with a child, who is not yours but will eventually be yours. You will get to help them grow, chalk their future path, and be responsible towards them.

2. You will experience the pleasures of having an extended family.

When you have a blended family, you will be able to share experiences and belongingness with a wider family. Seeing them accept you as their parent gives you immense satisfaction.

3. Your kids will get to live with their half-siblings.

If you are having children from your previous partner, then they will get to have a bigger family with half-siblings.

4. Your spouse will appreciate you more than ever.

Seeing you embrace his/ her children, your spouse will admire your efforts and love you more than before. This creates a beautiful environment at home.

The rewards are mutual for you and the child as well. Let’s see how.

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What Are The Rewards For The Child?

The biggest reward for the child is that they will get a complete family now with both the mother and father being there for them. The other benefits are:

  • The children can count on a stepparent like an extra shelter beside their biological parent.
  • They feel good to be a part of a two-parent or blended family.
  • Due to the combined incomes, kids can have a good standard of living.
  • Having a happy and loving family is like reassuring the children that they are in a secure environment once again.

Remember that these rewards don’t come easily or instantaneously. You have to be prepared to face several challenges before settling down.

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[ Read: Blended / Step Family Challenges ]

What Are The Challenges Of Step-parenting?

Step-parenting is much more difficult than biological parenting because you need to prove your love time and again. And the difficulties of step-parenting are there for both the parent and the child.

Challenges for the parent Challenges for the child
  • You may feel out of place in a new house and new family where everyone else knows each other.

  • Kids may feel insecure to be in a new house that is different from where they lived and has unknown people.

  • The biological parent may be a hindrance as they see you as somebody who is trying to replace them.

  • The child may still be mourning the break-up of their parents. Even if it was not a happy one, children usually crave for the first home.

  • If you have kids of your own, it is not unnatural that you may want to favor them over your spouse’s child.

  • You cannot expect kids to accept and love their half-siblings immediately. It will take time for them to understand that they have to live together.

  • If you are in a remarriage and you have a child from the past, you may initially doubt your partner’s sincerity towards your child.

  • The children might be confused about their place and importance in the new family.

  • Sometimes, the past baggage is carried into a new relationship, and the ill-will might be directed towards the child.

  • Seeing their father/ mother being close to you will make the children feel jealous of you. They may feel unwanted and forgotten.

  • Trying hard to make everyone happy, especially your stepchildren, can be too stressful to handle.

  • A new family is often decided by adults, without knowing if the child wants it. This would create some unpleasantness.

  • You and your partner may differ in opinions and expectations about parenting. While you may want to be stern with your step-child, your spouse may misunderstand you.

  • Children are fine being disciplined by their mom or dad. But when an ‘outsider’ tries to discipline them even with a good will, they feel being controlled.

  • A parent has more tolerance for their own child than a stepparent does. The way a parent deals with the mess, the stress and tantrums of a kid, no one else can.

  • A kid may not feel good about sharing his/her parent with a new partner and children.

  • Children consider their first parents as their only parents. They would want to seek their approval and acceptance, and not that of the stepparent.

  • The child may assume that their stepparent is the reason for their first family to break up

Step-parenting is difficult but not impossible, especially when you follow certain dos and don’ts.

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[ Read: Ways To Enhance Parenting Skills ]

What Are The Dos And Don’ts Of Step-parenting?

Step-parenting is like a dish that takes a long time to cook. When done with interest and patience, the dish turns out to be perfect. You may follow the below dos and don’ts to make it a tad easier.

What you should do:

  1. Talk about parenting rules with your spouse. Understand what your role will be in the upbringing of the child. Discuss with your partner and stepchild about the method of parenting you want to follow, rewards, punishments, allowances, homework, chores, and bedtime. Come up with mutually acceptable rules. This way, the child knows what to expect from you.
  1. Have regular discussions with your spouse. Review your approach from time to time to see what is working and what is not. This helps you know your partner’s perspective, and make amendments wherever needed.
  1. Organize family meets. Give your kids the chance to speak about their feelings — what they like and what they don’t like in the family. Their feedback will help you all to work on difficult issues and settle them. The child, too, will be reassured that their opinion matters in the house.
  1. Be ready for an outburst. Yes, you should be ready to hear your stepchild say things like, “You’re not my mom/dad.” Your stepchild might try to exert their power and take away yours this way. But you need to be calm. Try to tell them, “Yes, I am not your biological parent, but that does not mean that I don’t love or care for you.”
  1. Spend time with your stepchild. Encourage them to do the activities they love, and tag along with them. Take them out on short holidays or just to eat an ice cream. The child will gradually realize that you are not an intrusion in their life.
  1. Let your stepchild spend time with their biological parent. Encourage them to go and meet their biological parent. With such gestures, you give out the message that this is not a competition for love and you indeed want to see your stepchild happy.

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[ Read: Signs You Are A Bad Parent ]

What you should not do in step-parenting:

  1. Show your desperation. Often, stepparents try hard to form a bond, and in the process become desperate. New parents buy their stepchildren lots of gifts to become the cool parent for the kid and receive unquestioning love. But children do understand all that. Take and give time for both of you to settle down and understand each other.
  1. Try to replace the biological parent. Whether your relationship is a result of the death of your partner’s spouse or a divorce, do not try to take the place of the biological parent of your stepchild. You need to respect the child’s love for his/her original parent. Give them the choice to love and accept you the way they can.
  1. Have limitless expectations. If you are a stepparent with children of your own, you need to understand that you do not share the same rapport with your stepchild. Therefore, do not expect your stepchild to love you instantly and unconditionally.
  1. Over discipline the child. If you try to over-discipline your stepchild, even with a good intention, it will be misunderstood by them. Let the primary parent discipline their child for at least a year. As time passes, there is a better chance of your stepchild listening to you.

Parenting is an interesting journey full of love, hope, positivity, and friendship. As a stepparent, you will experience the initial hiccups, but the path ahead can become smoother if you strive to make it smoother. Begin with an open mind and a sincere heart, and let the bond blossom gradually.

Do you have an experience to share? Let us know in the comment section below.

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MA English Pursuing Child Nutrition and Cooking from Stanford University Sudipta is an English Major from the University of Hyderabad. Has considerable medical research writing experience, but also enjoys creative writing and the arts. Her writings aim to make highly scientific/ health material easy to understand for a common reader. She is also a National Novel Writing Month awardee. Sudipta loves to hit the roads to find stories and motivation to fill up her canvases and the pages of her diary.
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