Step parenting often brings its own particular problems as the new step parent is caught in the middle between the children and the biological parent. precisely how much difficulty you are going to run into depends upon a whole variety of factors, not the least of which will be the degree of co-operation you get from the biological parent and the ages of the children.
The best parenting advice and the answer to successful step parenting will be found first in clearly determining your role in the eyes of the biological parent because you will certainly have an uphill battle if the two of you are not fully in agreement from the start. With any changes in a relationship though you must also realize that adjustments will take time and you need to adopt a ‘step by step’ approach. An attempt to hasten things, or to force the situation, will unquestionably result in frustration and possibly confrontation. The biological parent might well feel threatened by the need to share parenting and will have to have time to adjust and to gain confidence and trust in you as a parent to her or his children.
Your next step will be to establish your role with the children who, unless they are very young, will usually resent being guided by an ‘outsider’. You will have to take things slowly and understand that the children are going to need time to get used to the situation before they accept you as a parent. Once again, you will have to have the assistance of the biological parent in building your relationship with the children.
A successful transition into step parenting has to start with a clear and frank conversation with the biological parent, during which both parties need to communicated honestly and freely about how they view their own role, as well as that of the other party, and you must both reach a clear agreement on just how you need to share the responsibilities of parenting. This discussion also has to set clear boundaries but should be adaptable to allow for modification, especially in the all important first few weeks and months following the establishment of your new relationship.
This first conversation will not of course be the end of the matter and several similar conversations will have to take place before any truly meaningful and lasting shift in parenting responsibilities can take place.
Having reached agreement the next step is to get the children on board and this must at first be led by the biological parent. At a suitable time everyone should sit down together and the biological parent has to lead off a discussion in which the plan that you have come up with can be revealed to the children and discussed with them.
At this point it is important to emphasize that this should be a genuine discussion and not merely a case of the parents ‘laying down the law’ to the children. It is critically important that the children have a say in to the conversation and that their views and thoughts on what you have agreed are listened to. Children, just like adults, must be given a feeling of control over their own lives and have to feel comfortable with the situationthey find themselves in. This does not mean that the children should be given control of the situation, which must remain firmly in the parents’ hands as the ultimate decision makers within the household, however, every effort should be made to ensure that they understand the situation and that they are as happy with it as is they can be.
The mere fact that the children are able to see that their parents have obviously thought about the position very carefully, and agree about it, will do a great deal to stop the children from playing the parents off against each other and the fact that they are included in the process will also help a great deal in bringing them on board.
Coming into a household as a new step parent can be difficult for not only the step parent but for the biological parent and for the children and everybody will need to work together carefully and take their time to establish an environment in which everybody can live happily together. Handled with care step parenting is not as difficult as you might think.