Just when we thought parenting is the toughest job in the world, imagine the situation of a step-parent. It is a complicated endeavour to step into a family that already established its roles, and to develop a bond that’s already fraught with either non-acceptance or disenchantment from the other members of the family and especially the children. A step-parent is already starting on the back-foot and it could be scary, tricky and at times also infuriating.
But it also means to have a second shot at love, acceptance and family life. A family with a step parent and step children can lead a harmonious life when all the stakeholders play their part with empathy and respect. Here’s how…
Blurring old boundaries and building new bonds
When a new spouse enters the picture, they must create a sense of openness, to accept new things, new challenges and of course the new members of his/her family. It is important to develop a warm, friendly communication with the children of their partners. This can be done by showing interest in their lives, their interests and their needs.
This will be possible when the biological parent in the family acts as the bridge between the children and the new spouse. They help calm the frayed nerves, clear the confusions, fill the gaps in communication and build a common ground. It has to be a combined effort from both the partners, keeping in mind the overall wellbeing of the child.
And in cases of remarriage, it is advisable that the new spouse build a healthy relationship with the former partner. This, because children are hardwired to lean towards their biological parents for their needs. So, alienating them from their lives would be detrimental to the new relationship.
Establishing respect and admiration for each other
Another important factor to ensure a smooth transition of the new spouse into the family is to establish respect for each other, between the parent and the child. The new partner should respect the boundaries of the child, make efforts in being present in their lives, but not being intrusive. Yes, it is tough in the beginning, but with time and practice, the mutual admiration will only blossom.
The biological parent here again has an important role to play. One, is to back their new partner in their decisions and trust their parenting skills. Secondly, in ensuring that the children and other family members understand and value the efforts and contribution of the new parent in the relationship. The children need to be guided into understanding the new role of the parent in the family, gradually handhold them into accepting the situation and visualize the positive aspects and outcomes of it.
Managing each other’s expectations
This is one tricky path to tread for both parents and the children. The new partner is trying hard to understand the house rules and everyone’s needs. The parent here is juggling between the children and the new partner. And the children are having a tough time accepting this new change in their lives.
Communication is the key here. When family members let each other know about their expectations from this new relationship and how much they can contribute to it, there is scope to find middle ground and lay the foundation for a happy family in future.
Seeking help and guidance where needed
And when the going gets tough, it is OKAY to seek help. It could be anyone, a friend, a family member or even an expert in this domain, like the parenting counsellors at We Positive Parenting. Through family counselling sessions, with focus on step-parenting, the counsellors can help parents in their endeavor to make the stepchild believe in himself/herself and start trusting them as his/her own.
Take the first step without fear.