Parenting is a hard job. Step parenting can be even harder. Blending two families can be a challenge and can be a strain on the marriage if problems are not dealt with appropriately. Entering into a marriage with someone who has children means you are not just marrying a person, but you are getting a package deal. Determining your role within the family can be difficult. Establishing a relationship with children while trying to gain respect and authority is challenging.
One of the most important steps in developing a healthy step-parent relationship is to form a bond with your partner’s children. This can help children see that you are interested in being a part of the family. If you include them in your activities and plans, they will be more willing to include you as part of their family. Establishing a relationship means spending quality time with the children, both with your partner and alone with each child without your partner. For younger kids, this may mean getting down on the floor and joining in their play. For older kids, it might mean attending sporting events or playing a board game together. For teenagers, simply driving them to the mall or an after school activity can show that you care and can give you the opportunity to talk to them while in the car.
It’s important to have a relationship established with the children before you start disciplining stepchildren. Think of it like a bank – you will need to have made deposits before you can start making withdrawals. If a relationship is not developed first, children will often become angry and resentful when a step parent disciplines them. Also, make sure that you and your partner have discussed the rules and that you are clear about expectations and consequences. If you set different limits, it is not likely to be well received by children.
Determining your role within the family can be a difficult process for everyone. Anticipate that there will be some difficult times along the way. If you are struggling, counseling can help. Therapy can help couples develop their roles and family therapy can help children who are having difficulty adjusting as well.