So you've met the person of your dreams and now you're ready to live happily ever after. But your dream partner already has a brood of children who may not be so welcoming to a new partner - how do you cope?
Successful step-parenting becomes easier if you follow these tips
So you've met the person of your dreams and now you're ready to live happily ever after. But your dream partner already has a brood of children who may not be so welcoming to a new partner - how do you cope? Becoming a step-parent should be a rewarding experience - with the chance to shape young lives and blend two families together. It is certainly something that many more people will experience as second marriages become more prevalent. But the path to successful step-parenting can be a tricky one. You've fallen in love with your partner, but you also have to deal with the fragile emotions of his/her children, who may be resentful towards you. You also have to navigate a relationship with your partner's ex, as they will still be in their life because of the children. It can be tough and there's no quick fix answer for creating a happy blended family. But there are ways you can make the transition easier and smooth relationships between you and your new family. Here are the dos and dont's of step-parenting.
Set the ground rules with your partner first
To be a successful step-parent you need to put on a united front with your partner. So sit down with your love and work out what the rules are for the kids. Work out bedtimes, rewards, acceptable discipline, homework times, computer time - anything that is likely to cause conflict. Do this before you all begin living together. You should be on the same page from the start. Make sure the other non resident biological parent is fine with your rules, too. The best plan is to leave disciplining step-children to their biological parent - at least for a year.
Try to buy affections
You won't be able to create an instant bond with your partner's children. Their trust and respect has to be earned over time. So just be yourself. Be kind. But don't buy lots of presents for them - they won't respect you for it in the long term. Don't try to be a 'cool' step-parent, you'll just embarrass them! Kids need stability, love and guidance from you.
Allow alone time
A blended family is a big change for everyone - especially the children who have no say over their parent's re-marriage. So allow the kids to spend time alone with each of their biological parents. Don't feel envious if the children want to go to the cinema with their father, or have lunch with their mother - and you're not invited. It's natural for them to want this. As long as you are usually included in their activities, allow them some time away from you.
Take it personally
If the step-children are challenging at first, cut them some slack. Remember that their whole world was turned upside down when their parents separated. Now you've come along their dreams of a reunion between their parents are shattered. Treat them with patience and kindness. It will take time for them to accept you as part of the family. If they continue to play up, you'll need your partner's full support in letting them know you must be treated with respect.
Begin to bond
Find out the sort of activities your step-children enjoy, then offer to take them. Choose something you can do together, like a sport or cooking. If they see that you are making an effort it's more likely they will reciprocate. You'll start to build an independent relationship with them in this way. So you can enjoy time with them without your partner being around.
Have unrealistic expectations
If you are blending two sets of children together, don't expect it to be happy families immediately. You can force the two sets of children to get along. Pressure is the last thing your new family needs. All you can do is create a loving, positive environment for them to give the best chance of emotions settling down and home becoming harmonious. Always be seen to act fairly. Treat both sets of children exactly the same, even if you find one child a delight and the other a pain - don't allow this to show.
Listen to your children
Each of you has an equal stake in this newly blended family. So everyone should be heard. It's a good idea for new families to sit down once a week to air any ideas or opinions. This allows for positive suggestions but it also prevents any bad feeling or perceived injustices from festering. Give every family member a chance to say how they feel and offer suggestions on how to improve family life.
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