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.