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Advice for New Stepparents

Father and Child

We’ve all heard the stereotypes of the “wicked stepparent,” but many stepparents are loving and committed members of the new blended family. Here are suggestions to improve stepparent relationships.

Do not try to take the place of the child’s mother or father, unless he or she is completely out of the picture or you are asked by the children if it’s okay to call you mom or dad. Trying to have step-kids call you mom or dad only causes confusion with the kids and animosity with the biological parent. Be nice to the ex, if possible, and that is sure to reduce tensions.

Never make disparaging remarks about the ex or your new spouse around the kids, or about the kids to either parent. You may not know it, but by agreeing to this marriage, you signed on to be a reasonable adult. It’s crucial that when everyone else involved is overly emotional, you keep your head about you.

Every child harbors the fantasy that someday their parents will get back together. You are a natural barrier to that happening. Don’t take this personally. Demand the respect of the children, but their love may not be so forthcoming. Be patient.

You can only enforce the rules in your household. You and your spouse must communicate regularly so your house rules are consistent. It doesn’t matter how strict those rules are. Kids just want consistency, and you (the reasonable adult) can give them that.

Remember that divorce can be a life-altering event for most children, complete with all the fear and insecurity you can imagine. If they want to talk, you’ve hit the mother lode. Being a stepparent is hard work, with few rewards in the short term. The kids may be grown and long gone before you find out how much they’ve loved and appreciated you all along.