“I am desperate for any step parenting advice I can get! Help!” says one of my friends. Contrary to what we see in the popular TV series Modern Family, step parenting is easier said than done. It is comparable to stitching fabrics together to form a quilt. It definitely takes time. If you have troubles in blending in to your new family, here are dos and don’ts for you.
Step Parenting Advice: Dos
1. Constantly talk to your spouse about the parenting style. Discuss the punishments, homework, sleeping time, allowance, chores, and most especially the house rules. If your spouse and his or her ex already established a style that works with the kids, then go by those rules.
If you have no rules yet, talk about what’s currently working and what’s not. You may not agree with each other right away but this is a great step in building your family.
2. Allow the stepchild to talk or hang out with his or her birth parents. This shows that you are not competing with the child’s biological parents. It also shows that you care about the child’s happiness because, instead of feeling inferior and insecure, you allow him or her to bond freely with them.
3. Keep an open communication. Let the children speak up. Let them express what they like or don’t like about the current setup. Have them give suggestions to make the situation better. Do this weekly until your relationship becomes harmonious. Listen well and act on the child’s requests.
4. Always be prepared for the most hurtful words. There will come a time when there will be heated arguments and you will hear the words “You are not my real mom (or dad).” Letting these words get the best of you will only worsen the situation. Instead tell him that he is right but it does not mean that you don’t love him.
5. Always have a bonding time. Take time in learning the child’s interest so you can do the activity together. If possible, pick an activity the he or she doesn’t get to do with his biological parents. This will tell the child that you are interested in getting to know him.
6. Reward positive behavior. Always compliment and praise good deeds because this will be remembered by the child. This will also build loving feelings towards you. Reserve the punishments for when you are already close.
Step Parenting Advice: Don’ts
1. Don’t pretend. You don’t need to spend a fortune to lavishly shower the child with gifts. Just be you and the kid will see through that. This will also send a signal of sincerity.
2. Don’t compare them to your children. Remember that your upbringing with your kids is not the same with your stepkids’. They don’t have the same environment and the same learned skills so be extra patient and refrain from comparing.
3. Don’t take it personally. Most of the time, children still hope that their parents will still get back together so they will do anything to test you until you are out of their lives. Another reason for their misbehaving could be feelings of mourning, sadness, anger, and confusion.
4. Don’t implement new changes right away. New marriage is not equals to new rules. Remember that the kid is still under adjustment period and that you have to understand that roller coaster of emotions that the child experienced.
5. Don’t be the chief disciplinarian. Instead, let the birth parent do the disciplining. Just take the backseat because you and the kids are not that close yet. Just think of taking the role of a babysitter. Just tell the kids about the rules and recount details of any misbehavior. The real parent will be the one to give the punishment. Work on connecting with them first before correcting them.
It usually takes about 5 to 7 years for a blended family to become close so don’t panic. Give it time and do as much as you can for your new spouse and family. This is very tricky so get as much step parenting advice as possible from others who are in the same situation as you. Good luck from your Parenting Domain family! You can do it!