Step families come in all different shapes and sizes but the general definition is when two parents from previous relationships with children from at least one of those relationships come together to live as one family. Step Families also called “blended families” share in the same challenges as traditional families but because of the nature of not being blood related, issues can be more exaggerated and feelings can be more intense. For example, a father who has a good relationship with his biological daughter and he disciplines her for an infraction, the child may be unhappy, but still knows that she is loved and cherished regardless. In contrast when a stepdad disciplines his step daughter in the same instance, she may feel targeted, unloved and disconnected because of the uncertainty of the relationship. When step parents are blended with the children at an earlier age it can help make the relationships stronger and prevent some of the challenges, but there is no guarantee that either the parent or the child will ever feel complete and secure in the relationship. Here are some tips on How to Navigate The Challenges of Step Parenting.
Develop Trust Before the Marriage
When two people love each other they want to be together and start their exciting new life together. They often have high hopes and unrealistic expectations for the kids. Children need time to get to know the new authority figure, the new rule enforcer, the new person that they are going to have to share with their parent. This isn’s something that parents can just expect a child to understand, but rather time and opportunities have to be provided for a natural trust and relationship to form between the child and the potential step parent. There is no time line or guarantees but parents need to find ways to show the child that they can trust this new person as an authority figure and caregiver in their life.
Set Reasonable Expectations and Allow Time to Adjust
If there were a scientific formula or guaranteed method then you would not need to be reading this article. The truth is that the challenges that step families face are difficult ones. Being reasonable with your expectations and allowing time for everyone to adjust to each other and their new situations is crucial. For example, don’t just assume that because you have the best kids in the world and your partner is totally good natured that everything will work itself out right away. If problems arise readjust your strategies and seek help from experienced counselors before the relationships are irreparable.
Try and Keep A Realistic Perspective
If you are not feeling an immediate connection to your step kids realize that this is natural and not something to worry about. It may take time to develop a feeling of true parental love and acceptance for someone else’s children. As well, when children are going through natural developmental stages of toddler tantrums, early childhood selfishness, adolescent absentmindedness and teenage rebellion see this behavior and feeling for what it is and don’t let the step-family issue over exaggerate how you process. This means see kids for who and what they are and don’t take it personally when they are being normally obnoxious and being challenging. Blood parents deal with these same scenarios and behaviors too. It is just a part of parenting. To keep a realistic perspective on parenting turn to resources like online articles, books and experts to help you manage being a great parent to great kids.
I was remarried when my two children were very young and we faced our share of the normal step family stuff. It isn’t easy to parent or step parent but it can be done well, done fairly and done out of love to produce results that make you a “real” family after all. It takes some work, knowledge and support but you can do it!