The Keys to Being a Good Step-Parent

If you are a step-parent, then you may be feeling confused or overwhelmed by your job. Breathe and relax. You don’t have to do everything on your own.  Here are some tips that can help you find step-parenting harmony:

  • Acknowledge Your Step-Children’s Emotional Wounds: Children want to be seen and heard. Therefore it is important to see where your step-children are coming from emotionally. As a step-parent, you don’t need to take it personally if they harbour resentment towards you about the loss of their father or mother. Children have a right to be hurt and grieve the fact that their biological family is no longer together, and you, as a step-parent could assist with this grieving process.
  • Display Calm, Consistent Behaviour: The best thing you can do to win your step-children’s trust is be calm and dependable. Treat them consistently with kindness, respect, and authentic concern. Don’t be too pushy and don’t disrespect their boundaries.
  • Don’t Try to Replace a Mom or Dad: A step-parent is not a replacement parent, especially if step-children still have a good relationship with their biological mother or father. Your job as a step-parent is not to pretend that you are the new parent, but to offer your step-children love and warmth as a positive adult role model.
  • Be Firm: While it is important not to push your step-children too hard, it is also important that they know you are still an authority figure in the home and that you require respect—and that you, too, have boundaries. Be firm and consistent in enforcing the rules of the house—if you are too much of a push over, your children will resent you just as much as if you were to be completely totalitarian.

Healthy families are a vital part of any well-functioning society and these days, families come in many varieties, including blended families. Indeed, many children are now growing up in homes that feature some combination of step-parents, half-siblings, full siblings, step-siblings, and biological parents. Yet despite the widespread social acceptance of blended families, the fact remains that there is often tension between step-parents and step-children; no matter how politically correct we try to be, step-parents and biological parents are not interchangeable. And they shouldn’t be. The relationship between a step-parent and a step-child is a whole different parenting ball game. This fact doesn’t undermine the value of the step-parent, it just acknowledges the diversity of family relationships and helps us recognize the need to work with the challenges that come with blended families in order to avoid major relational problems and achieve a greater sense of love and security.

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