A Practical Guide for Dealing with Step Children
Dealing with step children can be difficult, especially if you have never been a parent before. New step parents often have a hard time adjusting to the life of always having to put someone else first and can often go overboard in a number of ways that end up straining the relationship before it has a chance to fully form. Here are some things to keep in mind as you learn about dealing with step children.
Do Not Rush Things
Even if you got along famously with your step children before you married their parent, you will likely run into some boundary pushing and "acting out" behaviors when dealing with step children after the wedding has taken place. Accepting you as a parent's boyfriend or girlfriend is one thing. Accepting you as a step parent is something else. Tread carefully and take things slowly. Work with your new spouse to figure out what role you will play in your step children's lives. Let your new spouse and his/her kids take the lead.
Do not attempt to exert authority too soon. Especially when you are newly married it is best to defer disciplinary measures to your spouse when dealing with her kids. Talk with your spouse about how much authority you should have with your step children and whether you should take any sort of disciplinary measures yourself. It is also important that you not let your step children put you in a difficult position. "Don't make me tell your mother" is not a position that you want to be in.
Don't be wishy washy. When dealing with step children you need to be consistent, especially in the beginning. If you let them push you over while you are learning to live together, they will not understand why you are "suddenly" so strict later on. If rules have been set down, stick to them! Don't be a buddy one day and an authoritative figure the next. This will only make your step children feel insecure and unsure of their footing around you.
Help create new family traditions with your step children. Remember that there are probably already family rituals and traditions in place and it is likely that your step children will be afraid that you won't let those traditions continue. Instead of insisting on all new traditions, why not encourage them to build new traditions that you can share? This will help bring you closer as a blended family.
Don't Force It
Don't force the relationship. When dealing with step children it is important to let them call the shots and determine the pace of your relationship. Let your step children decide how to address you. Don't insist that you be called Mom or Dad - they already have one of those. They'll figure out a name that they want to use for you and, as long as it is respectful, go with it. Remember, the goal is to help them feel safe and secure, not to boost your ego.
Remember the golden rule: when dealing with step children tread lightly and slowly. The kids call the shots. You'll have your relationship figured out eventually. In the meantime, be patient!
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