Step-Parenting 101: A Crash Course

Posted On: Thursday, August 13, 2015

Children are often confused by the idea of creating a new family! Many times, they feel a disloyalty to the other parent and sometimes feel pressured into forming a relationship with a step-parent or potential step parent. For those of you who are new to the step-parenting experience, here are some important points consider.

Let the children set the pace. Some children are more social than others. Younger children are more likely to embrace new relationships more quickly. Those who are a little older or shy might need more time. Respect that and take it slow. If a child is not quick to respond, don't take it personally. It probably has very little to do with you. Be empathetic and compassionate.

Be a friend not a parent. You are not his or her father (or mother). You fell in love with the woman or man who is the parent. The fastest way to children's hearts is seeing you and your partner happy and respectful of each other. If you can help them feel appreciated and accepted in your home, and they begin to experience an environment that is stress free and conflict free, they will begin to develop a sense of comfort and security.

There's nothing you can do about the other parent! Sometimes it happens. Other parents express their dislike for their ex's new partner; and this makes blending families more of a challenge. More than likely, this has to do with unresolved issues, between parents and not about your relationship. If you try to compete with this, you will lose every time. Never, ever criticize the other parent. It's easy to say, don't take it personally ... but don't. Again, it's not about you. The best way to earn the love and respect or your partner's children is to be patient, loving, and understanding.

The worst experience that a child can have is feeling he or she is at the center of your relationship issues. Don't criticize each other's parenting styles. This is one surefire way to create conflict in a marriage. Each of you comes to the relationship with a different sense of how to parent. Embrace your differences. It's important to honor and respect each other's parenting styles. House rules, of course, are important. But they should be mutual and reasonable. If you are having problems, seek help.

Help create an inviting, safe and secure environment. Children love attention, compliments and feeling wanted. If you are the step-parent, it's important that your spouse's children feel welcome in your home. Create rituals that honor the weeks or weekends that the children are spending time in your home. Make a special dinners to welcome them back or plan a family activity that makes them feel included.

The greatest gift you can give to children in a blended family is the experience of seeing a happy, healthy couple's relationship. Without a solid marriage, there is no blended family. Surviving a divorce is just as painful for children, if not more. Providing them with the opportunity to see a loving, nurturing, respectful relationship will make the transition smoother and more rewarding.

Dr. Laura Richter is a licensed Marriage and Family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. Her specialties include: surviving infidelity, improving communication, beginning again after divorce and effective co-parenting after divorce. She is also a trained mediator, qualified parenting coordinator and collaborative law mental health professional. For more information, please call or text us today at 561-715-6404 to schedule a consultation to see how we can help.