Second Marriages and Stepchildren

They say that love is better the second time around. Today, that second chance at love often comes as a package deal. Step families or blended families are the new norm, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy process. Whether you’re introducing your kids to a new step mom, or you’re the new one in the family getting to know her kids, it’s a lot of work turning two separate families into one. Tiny details can turn into major issues, so prepare yourself ahead of time with information and a plan.

Respect the Past

Your children had two parents before the divorce, and they still do in most cases. While you may have a strong urge to create an entirely new family entity, the children may see this as insulting to their non-custodial parent. The ex is not your enemy; in fact, the ex is someone your kids love very much. Respect their feelings and the history behind them. It’s the rare family that can invite ex-spouses over for holiday dinners. You don’t have to go that far. Treat the ex with polite manners and respect in front of your wife and children. If you can smile and shake hands with a horrible boss or client for the sake of money, you can do the same with the ex for the sake of your children’s feelings.

Show a United Front

Children are master manipulators. Your darling children? Oh, yes, yours and every other child on the planet. They love to play one parent off against the other, and nowhere is this more evident than in step families. Stop this game before it even starts by presenting a united front with your wife. Decide ahead of time on all major issues, and show the kids that you’re in agreement with the decision. Back up your spouse in every decision she makes, no matter how small. Never give the children the opportunity to run to one of you to get an alternate opinion. Make them know that they’ll always get the same decision, no matter which one of you they ask.

Create New Traditions

Creating a new blended family is like walking through a minefield every day. You’re constantly bombarded with statements of “But we always do it that way!” when you try to enjoy just about any family activity. From having breakfast on weekend mornings to important holidays, family life is made up of traditions large and small. Keep some of the more important ones to let the children know you’re not taking away cherished family time. Simply expand the tradition to include one more family member. But more importantly, begin to create your own family traditions for everyone to enjoy. Nothing special on the weekends? Start a tradition of a pancake bar on Saturday morning, serve herbal tea with teddy bears every Sunday afternoon or choose a sport like kite flying or rollerblading you can all do together every week. Start a cooking school in your home and teach the kids to create a new specialty dish every month. Make up fun and creative ways to celebrate holidays, or find new international holidays to enjoy. the point is to add new memories in a layer on top of the old ones, creating a tapestry of blended family life.

Yes, it’s stressful and an unbelievable amount of work. Turning single parents into a blended family takes endless communication, planning and compromise. Work your plan out with your spouse before you take the first step, and you may eventually stop being step mom and step dad, and turn into a simple mom and dad.

Tips For Being a Step Parent

Being a step-parent can be a challenging but very rewarding experience, if you know how to approach it with a positive attitude. There are many obstacles that can trip you up in getting along with your step-children, and there are a few strategies that you can use to make things easier.

One of the first strategies to consider is how you are going to establish your relationship with your step-children. Two of the biggest mistakes that you can make is to either be too strict or be a best friend. The smart thing to do is to approach the situation by establishing clear boundaries from the beginning. You don’t have to be a tyrant, but you also don’t want to be just a friend. Parents have to make tough decisions that children don’t often like. A friend cannot make these choices and set boundaries.

When you have to discipline, do it as a team with your spouse. Being on the same page with each other prevents inconsistent consequences, misunderstandings and related issues. By supporting and approaching a behavior issue as a team, your children will learn to respect you more and take you what you say to heart better. This requires good communication and strategy between the two of you. Children may go one parent to get a yes when the other one says no. Communication can help to keep things consistent and running smoothly.

Spending quality time with your step-kids will show that you care about them and are genuinely interested in their lives. Do activities that both of you like and spend time talking as much as possible. Be open to their questions and always be honest. Many times children will test you, and honesty is always the best policy. If you are not comfortable answering a question, tell them so. These little tests serve the purpose of seeing if you care and if you will be around for a long time. If you have patience and are willing to listen, your relationships will be more rewarding.

The best thing that you can do is to not be too hard on yourself. Being a step-parent is a challenge, and you are going to make mistakes. When you do, just admit it and give yourself a break. Ask your spouse for help with a particular problem, talk to a friend or family member. If you bottle up your frustration, it will affect your relationships with your family. Be open about how you feel and be persistent. Eventually your step-children will see that you do care and will form a lasting bond with you that will benefit you both. If you are still struggling with certain problems, try taking a parenting class or joining a step-parent support group. From these resources you can learn a number of valuable tactics to help you be successful.

How to Be a Good Step Parent

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs that anyone can undertake, but being a step parent may actually be even more difficult. You are presented with all of the typical issues related with parenting, but those are coupled with the added stress of dealing with those issues with children that are not technically yours. Feelings of resentment from the children and the delicate balance of being a parent without overstepping the unspoken boundaries of step parenting can make the task a difficult one to say the least.

The first, and perhaps most important, thing to remember about being a step parent, is that you are entering into a relationship with a child that has most likely already developed a relationship with their true parent. Whether the true parent is still in the picture or not, the relationship, for better or for worse, has likely already been established. You are the outsider and the newcomer to the relationship, so you must understand that certain things have been established prior to your arrival. You may not always agree with the foundation that has been laid before you, but you must respect that the children have a culture they are already accustomed to living.

Helping to keep the lines of communication open can go a long way in maintaining a healthy relationship with your step children. Even though it may be uncomfortable at times, you will need to encourage the kids to keep in regular contact with their real parents and you must never do anything to restrict that communication. Regardless of your feelings towards the parent, it is not your role, nor your right, to interfere with the relationship between the kids and their parents. Encouraging open communication will allow the children to maintain a healthy relationship with their parents and teach them valuable lessons about communication and boundaries that will follow them through the rest of their lives.

No matter how upset you may be or how much you may dislike the real parent, you must never speak negatively about that person in front of the children. This can cause the kids to feel as though they need to choose sides, and that is not fair to anyone in the relationship. The children should never feel as though they are being placed in the middle of any differences between the adults. This can cause feelings of resentment that will most certainly increase over time.

If you have children of your own, or plan to have kids with your new spouse, it is extremely important to make the step children feel just as important in your life as your own children. It is difficult to not show favoritism towards your own children, but as a parent figure to both sets of kids, it is important that they be treated equitably. Try your best to make sure the step kids are never made to feel as though they are less important to you. Listen, express interest in their goals and wishes and make sure they know that you love and care for them just as much as your own kids.

Do your best to avoid involving the children in the differences between you and your spouse. This can cause the child to feel as though the have to choose sides between their real parent and their step parent and can easily lead to feelings of resentment. Don’t try to get them to take your side or do anything to pit them against their parent. It isn’t fair to the children and will do nothing but cause problems for your relationship with your spouse.

With an open mind and an open heart, step parenting can be just as rewarding as parenting of your own children. Knowing that you play an influential role in the upbringing and development of a growing child can afford you with feelings of tremendous accomplishment and importance. Follow a few of the well known steps to successful step parenting and your role in your step children’s lives can prove to be extremely rewarding.

Successful Step-Parenting – Building Trust

“Trust Me”, this is something that you say to your step-child constantly. You know that you can be trusted, but how do they? If they have come from a family where their parents were recently divorced, then they are going to have issues trusting another adult that is now in the spot that once was occupied by their mother or father. Even if their mother or father is still present in their life, they are going to have feelings of resentment towards the person that is now with their parent. Building trust is something that is going to take time and effort. How much time and effort it takes is going to usually depend on the age of the child.

1)Building Trust with Younger Children

Younger kids are more prone to trust an adult than older ones. A child under the age of 6 is quicker to give you blind trust. It is important that you do not abuse the trust they do give you. Even though you are not the child’s parent, you are going to be a key person in their life in helping them develop who they are and what their morals are going to be. Young children will look up to you and expect you to show them how to make it through life.
To continue to get this trust from them, be there for them. Sometimes kids really need to be listened to. Be the ear that they need when they have problems at school or with playmates. Help them out of uncomfortable situations. These actions will help you build a long trusting relationship over the years to come.

2)Building Trust with Older Children

Once a child has reached the age of 7, they usually have started to form their own opinions about certain people in their life. They have had lots of time with their parents and don’t like change. From age 7 to their preteen years they have a lot on their mind. They want to make friends and be accepted by their peers. This is also the stage that they go through when they don’t want their parents, much less their step-parents, behind their every move. They want a little independence.
In this stage, you have to take time to learn about the kids before jumping in head first. Find out the things that they enjoy and when they have time, talk to them about it. Be generally interested in the things that they enjoy. If you see them having a hard time with something, offer to talk to them about it, or just be an ear. Many times kids just want to talk to someone about their problem however they don’t know who they can go to. However, don’t push the subject, this can make them move further from you, rather than become closer and trust you.

3)Building Trust with Teenagers

This is the hardest age to get a child to trust you. They understand more about the world and how things work than we as parents think they do. A new step-parent can seem like a huge intrusion into their world of high school, football games, band practice, or whatever else they may be into. At this stage in life, they usually don’t want to talk to their parents, so talking to you is definitely out of the question. Let them know once or twice that you are there if you need them, but don’t push the subject or they will close up even more because they will think you are being nosy.
The best way to get a child at this age to trust you is to show your support without directly causing them any possible embarrassment or stress. Give them a little room to be themselves and they will love you for it. The more your restrict them, the more they will resent you. Take time to get them the “cool new cd” even though you think its the worst music ever created. Give them that extra hour to hang out with friends. With teenagers, it’s all about give and take. Keep control of the situation, but allow them to blossom and you will find that they will trust you in a shorter period of time.

Step-Parenting and Discipline

As a step-parent, discipline is one of the most challenging parts of dealing with your spouse’s children. Being able to discipline effectively starts with building a good relationship with your step-children. This is another challenge, but if you build a solid foundation, it will make your other obstacles much easier to deal with. A divorce and remarriage can be big changes for children, and you need to communicate how much you care for and support them.

Building rapport does mean always being their “buddy,” though. You have to establish boundaries early on that are clear, consistent and well defined. You have to be a parent first, then a friend. Start out with consistency, which is one of the primary keys to effective discipline. With your spouse, discuss what rules and boundaries the children are familiar with and make sure that both of you are on the same page. This way you can support each other and handle problems in a similar manner.

When you say you will do something, do it. When a child sees that you follow through with what you say, he or she will develop trust and respect for you. Threats and hollow promises quickly wear off, so make sure that whatever consequences you choose for a behavior are appropriate and that you carry them out. For example, if your step-child refuses to go to bed at a certain hour, you can have the consequence of removing television an hour earlier in the evening. With consistency, problems decrease in time.

With younger children, this is incredibly important. When you discipline a younger child, limit what you say and remember not to take what they say or do personally. Young children will sometimes say things like “I hate you,” or “You’re not my real dad.” Do not let these statements bother you, as the child does not really mean them and is dealing with their emotions the only way that they know how to. Stay calm, firm and use a consistent consequence, such as time out, until they are calm.

Another key aspect of effective discipline is communication. Get to know your step-children by talking with them often, spend time with them and learn about their interests. This helps you keep touch on their activities and on how they are doing. You will be able to detect problems before they get started and deal with them more effectively. Part of communication is setting clear expectations. Let the child know what your expectations are and remind him or her when a mistake is make. This helps the child be clear on what the boundaries are. Rules and consequences have to be communicated in a calm, consistent manner. If you get upset, the child will feed off of that and a power struggle will ensue.

A good way to learn how to effectively discipline step-children is to take a parenting class. These are offered through local community agencies and family support services. These will give you other techniques that are successful in a variety of circumstances. Take advantage of these resources and you will be surprised at what you can learn. With patience, a calm attitude and consistency you will become effective at dealing with your step-children’s behavior issues.