Stepparenting can be tough. Stepparents frequently report feeling confused about their role, displaced from their spouse when the stepchild is around, helpless to change the situation, and guilty because they know that God is expecting them to love their stepchildren, even though they sometimes don’t.
Finding an effective stepparent role is a challenge—you must persevere to find success. Here are some practical tips for the journey.
Relationship Building Tips for Stepparents
Play! Having fun is a great way to connect.
Track with them. Know what activities a child is engaged in and enter that world. Take them to practice, ask about an activity, and take interest in their interests.
Share your talents, skills, and hobbies.
Communicate your commitment. Let the child know you value and want a relationship with them.Share the Lord and your walk. Shared spirituality can facilitate connection and a sense of family identity, but don’t be preachy. Instead share with humility your faith journey so they will experience you as a safe person.
The cardinal rule for stepparent-stepchild relationships is this: Let the children set the pace for their relationship with you. For example, if your stepchildren are open to physical affection from you, don’t leave them disappointed. If they remain aloof and cautious, respect their boundaries. As time brings you together, slowly increase your personal involvement and affections.
It’s important that stepparents not consider themselves failures if they do not form deep emotional bonds with every child.
The length of time required to move into this role depends on multiple factors, most of which are beyond the stepparent’s control. Enjoy the relationship you have now and trust that investments made over time will increase affection and respect.
Do’s and Don’s for Stepparents
Early on biological parents must pass power to stepparents so that children understand that stepparents are not acting on their own authority
Parents and stepparents negotiate rulestogether behind closed doors and seek unity in leading the family. The biological parent then communicates the rules to the children with the stepparent’s support.
Stepfamilies, where both parents bring children to the stepfamily, still negotiate rules together, but each takes the lead role with their own children.
Over time as emotional bonds with stepchildren deepen, stepparents can become more authoritative and shows of affection can become more common.
Don’t be harsh or punish in a way inconsistent with the biological parent. This tends to polarize parents and create marital discord.
Do focus on relationship building with each child. This is your long-term strength as a parent-figure.