Step parenting is not a commonly discussed topic in our society however the statistics surrounding it are quite staggering. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, around 10% of the U.S. population are currently divorced. Around 75% of those couples who divorce will eventually remarry and form a new family commitment. Forging meaningful relationships with their stepchildren is one of the many issues that step parents face in the new blended family. After having survived a likely painful separation and then managed to succeed in finding a new loving relationship, the next challenge for every step parent is learning how to form a new family bond which includes the children from one or both previous relationships. Though it can be a long and arduous journey for a blended family to feel comfortable living and socialising with each other, it is an extremely rewarding experience when a new family can function well together.
Step Parenting: What To Expect
At the beginning, things quite rarely progress smoothly. While you as parents are likely to face the new family and marriage with happiness and anticipation, children are most like to resist changes. The kids will commonly be worried about the impending changes to their family and how this could affect their relationships with their natural parents. It is normal for them to feel anxious about living with their new step parent and step siblings. This is especially so for children ages 9 – 15. Research has shown that children in this age group generally have the hardest time adjusting to the new family environment and hierachy. When it comes to forming new relationships and adjusting, younger kids normally can adapt better than older kids between 9 to 15. A new family arrangement can get especially tough for teenagers in their puberty stage. With any remarriage, there are major changes to the family structure and it is important to have guidelines and plans on how the new family will function, even before the marriage takes place.
Firstly, understand the importance of the role you are about to play in the child’s upbringing and well-being. As affection and love take time to develop, get starting by being involved in their life and getting to know them. Learn to find ways to experience real everyday life together. Discover the things that your step child likes, find some common ground and doing things together will become easier and relaxed. If you have children from your previous marriage, get your children involved as well so as to foster good relationship between the kids. Initially, you can take the on the role as a friend and start off as you would with any other friendship, then slowly strengthen it and develop the friendship into more of a step parenting relationship.
The Journey to Successful Step Parenting
Ideally, try to make agreements with your new spouse on your intentions to parent together, making the necessary adjustments to your step parenting style before forming the foundations of a new family life together. Discuss with your spouse and set the house rules right from the start. These rules need to be kept as consistent as possible, your step children may have had different rules in their previous household so conflict will be certain. A fair rule would be to treat each and every one equally where no one is spared from the house rules. This is crucial as it will make for a much smoother transition. You might find yourself giving a lot of energy, love and time to your step child that is not reciprocated. Stay positive and think of it as making small investments to form a firm foundation for which to build a happy family. Remember, it’s not something the child got to choose, so showing understanding will go a long way. By committing wholeheartedly to being the parent of the step child, they will recognize your efforts and invariably in time begin to see you as their ‘other’ mom or dad. Lots of patience and love are part and parcel to the journey of being a successful step parent, someone whom your step child will love and respect. If any complications or problems occur in the process, handle them with tender loving care and an always an extra dose of patience.
The road to a happy new family can be a tough one and there will definitely be bumps along the way. However, as long as you make the effort to make things work, it is a very rewarding and fulfilling journey as your step children eventually accept you as their new parent. No matter under what circumstances, never give up and your relationship with your step children will improve as your family spends time together and get to know each other better. Just keep in mind that it takes a lot of commitment, patience and perseverance by all adults involved to make step parenting work.