Becoming a parent can be difficult as it is – but becoming a step parent comes with its own unique challenges, and its normal to be unsure how you should act. Should you jump right in and start parenting like you would your own children? Or, should you wait to see how your step children respond and take the back-seat approach?
The fact is, there is no ‘how-to’ guide for becoming the best step parent. Each family is unique and over time, you and your partner will develop a step-parenting technique that works for your family dynamic.
Although there is no definitive set of rules, here are a few tips to help you ease into step-parenting as you build your new family.
1) Take things slow
Depending on a number of factors including the child’s age, their current relationship with their parents and the timing of you entering the family, it can be extremely difficult for a child to accept a new parent. For other children, it can be much easier. Regardless, don’t expect an instant connection between you and your step-child. In the early days, settle for respect. Over time, they will learn to trust you as you spend time being supportive of them in an indirect parenting role (such as taking them to soccer practice or preparing dinner).
2) Communicate with your partner
Setting boundaries and expectations with your partner is critical to successful step-parenting.
- What role does your partner want you to play in discipline?
- What responsibilities do you share?
- What limits do you have?
- How will you provide feedback to one another in a constructive way?
You and your partner may have completely different parenting techniques. The earlier on you communicate this and develop a healthy strategy, the better.
3) Celebrate the little wins
Being accepting and positive towards your stepchild is key to building a good relationship with them. Although there may be moments of negative behaviour, let your partner handle those at first. When your step-child displays positive behaviour, celebrate it by making a note of your appreciation or surprising them with something they would enjoy.
4) Get to know your stepchildren
Before you take the plunge and move in with your step-children, make some effort to get to know them. Ask your partner to arrange family activities like dinner and a movie or having a picnic at the park. Perhaps you can spend some one-on-one time with your new step-child by driving them to meet their friends or helping them with homework. Asking your step-child questions to get to know them better will go a long way in trust and relationship building.
5) Practice self-care
Last but not least, look after yourself. Taking on a new family can be challenging and at times, exhausting. To be the best step-parent you must first be your best self, and that means taking time to do things that you enjoy. Try to maintain as much of your regular routine as you can. Exercise, visit with friends and keep up with your hobbies. If you find yourself really struggling with step-parenting, visit a counsellor to develop coping mechanisms and positive behavioural strategies for managing these new relationships.
Families are full of people with different personalities, needs and desires. In any case, these are difficult situations to navigate. Your Counselling is here to offer support and counselling to individuals or families that are looking for guidance to communicate better and develop strong, healthy relationships. Contact us today for a free consultation and to book your first appointment.