Who are you to your step-children?
It is only natural you would want your step children to love you, respect and obey you. It is also only natural you might feel you have no right to their love, respect or obedience. The only thing you may be certain of is you feel out of place and uncertain of what your role in this new family unit might be.
To know what your role should be you must first understand what your role is not. You are not your step child’s mother or father, and you are not their friend. You may be stepping into a place in your partner’s life once occupied by another. But you are not the other person. And you should not try to be. So, the first key to successful step-parenting is to be you.
You also want to avoid the pitfall of trying to be a friend to your step children. Children have plenty of friends, most likely, and you are not meant to be among those. Your first inclination might be to try to bribe them with gifts and kindness, to overlook bad behavior, and to try to be there for them. All you will win from this behavior, however, is a spoiled and manipulative step child.
If you cannot be your step child’s mother or father or friend, then who are you supposed to be? The key is in the word step-parent. You are a parent. Your duty to your step children is to parent them. You provide a moral compass for them, you provide discipline as discussed by you and your partner, and you help your partner provide a home and sustenance for them. Be fair in all of the above, but also be firm and consistent.
Be friendly but never let your kindness be motivated out of guilt or a desire to win over your step child. Children are evolving creatures that change over time. So do adults. You have to be consistent even when the rewards are small or missing.
One challenge to creating a cohesive blended family is establishing trust. The children may feel uncertain about their new family and resist your efforts to get to know them. Learn not to take their lack of enthusiasm (and other negative attitudes) personally. It is not as if the children don’t want you to be happy. Kids don’t know what it will be like to share their parent with a new spouse, let alone other children. These feelings are normal.
The stepmother or stepfather should actively support the child’s relationship with the biological mother or father no longer in the home. For example, if you are in the role of stepfather, you should make it a priority to nurture a relationship between you and the biological father and to find every possible way you can to support a relationship between him and his children. By taking the high road of being the facilitator, you will find it easier to overcome feelings of resentment both on the part of the biological father and the children he no longer has daily access to.
This may require a real internal commitment on your part, because supporting your step children’s relationship with their biological, but absent, parent may seem small as to also supporting the parent’s relationship with your spouse. Do not let jealousy or envy of the bond the parent shares with their children or the working relationship, and history with your current partner, be the cause of you being less than supportive of the relationship.
For more information on being a better step-parent, pick up your copy of “You’re Not My Parent!” today.