Step-Parent Advice: Winning Ways For Non-Biological Moms And Dads
Parenting is the most important job of our lives, and often considered the most difficult too. If that is true, then step-parenting would become a close-to-impossible job!
It doesn’t have to be that way, though – here are a few tips to help step-parents surmount some of the hurdles and pitfalls. After all, ‘step-parent’ still has the word ‘parent’ in it…
1. Accept The Child’s Feelings
The child has already gone through a loss, whether by death or divorce. Adjusting has been tough, and now there is a step-parent and /or step-brothers and -sisters to deal with. It can’t be easy on anyone.
However, the more mature adult has to assume the responsibility to help the child with getting through this difficult time. Remember, his possibly negative feelings – anger, jealousy, fear or what may even seem like hatred – are not meant to attack you. The child would have reacted this way to anybody who, in his mind, is trying to replace the parent.
Be calm and help the child to deal with his or her feelings instead of reacting to them with your own. Listen not only to words but also to the feelings behind the words. Sometimes there is no need for you to say anything at all. Simply listening attentively helps.
2. Express Your Feelings
Let the child know through words and actions that you care about him or her. Allow yourself to feel love, and let it show. You may be hurt when the feelings are not reciprocated immediately, but if you understand that it is not personal, it becomes easier.
At the same time, do not tolerate abusive behavior – emotional, mental or physical. If these manifest, be mature and move away till the child cools down; then talk to him calmly. Let the child know that though you will be there for him and care about him, you will not tolerate disrespect.
3. Give It Time
Just because you are the step-parent does not mean there will be an immediate bond. Any bond takes time to develop – in fact, it is more likely that the child may try to resist getting close to you. She may see building a relationship with you as tantamount to betraying the biological parent, and also feel that you are trying to replace the father or mother.
Be grown-up about it; accept the fact that you are not going to be welcomed with open arms. Be patient and allow the relationship to develop slowly. With time and love, everything will fall into place.
4. Spend One-On-One Time With Each Child
It is very important that both the biological parent and the step-parent spend time with each child, individually, on a one-on-one basis, for at least 15 minutes per day per child. The key here is to spend this time having fun! Do whatever makes you and the child happy… something that both of you enjoy.
If there is resistance at first, keep trying to reach out to the child. This time spent together will strengthen the bond. When the biological parent spends time with the child alone too, the child is less likely to see the step-parent as a threat or an intruder coming in the way of his secure existing relationship with his parent.
5. Do Everything From A Place Of Love
When things are done with love, children can immediately sense it. Allow yourself to develop a genuine love for the child. It may take time, but work on it and you will have some precious relationships for life which you will treasure forever.
6. Agree With Your Spouse On Discipline Techniques
Allow the biological parent to take a lead on discipline techniques regarding the children. If you both have children, agree on a mutual discipline technique to follow and make sure you follow it in a fair manner with all the children.
7. When The Child Says “You’re Not My Parent”
This is probably the most common phrase every step-parent hears at one point or the other. The best way to respond to this is by saying something like, “Yes, I know that, but right now I am the adult in charge and I do love you too. I’m not trying to take your father’s/mother’s place, but I would like us to share a relationship of love and respect.”
Attacking the child or getting defensive will only make matters worse. Expressing the love in your heart will help make things better; it may happen slowly, but will happen surely.
8. Do Not Bad-Mouth The Missing Parent
You may or may not have known the child’s biological parent, but never say anything to put him or her down. However wrong they may have been, they are still the child’s parent and you will lose the child’s respect by badmouthing. Steer clear of that path; instead, concentrate on building your relationship with the child.
9. Create New Traditions
The family may have had some traditions before you came into the picture. If the children are adamant, allow the traditions to continue and be a part of them, but also create some new traditions of your own.
10. Remember – This Is Not A Nuclear Family
Many enter a step-parent relationship expecting a nuclear family. Even with lots of love and patience, a step-family is different. It can be happier and filled with more love and joy, but it will still be different. There will always be the biological parent in the picture, even though he or she is not around. Accept the fact and you will have a happier time.
11. Work On Your Marriage
One of the most common causes of divorce in second marriages is the stress of step-parenting. It often takes such a toll that the marriage gets neglected. Learn to keep a balance between your family life and marriage.
Don’t let go of the romance, and continue expressing your love to your spouse. Make it a point to spend time with your spouse alone; that will give you the strength to deal with difficult situations.
12. Talk To An Expert
If you’re not able to deal with the pressures of step-parenting on your own, find a friend or counselor you can talk to. Talking to somebody who is not connected to the situation and is objective about it helps to see the situation in a different light, making you feel better.
Finally, take care of yourself. This will help you to get through the obstacles more easily. Find ways to de-stress and stay calm. Once you have a peaceful mind and heart, it will get easier to be more patient and deal with the hurdles that come your way.
Remember, the children may not be biologically yours – but relations of the heart can sometimes turn out stronger than those of blood. The key lies in feeling and expressing the love in your heart.