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Effective Step Parenting: How To Effortlessly Blend In

Effective step parenting can lead to a wonderful family dynamic

Marrying someone with kids comes with a lot of challenges and obstacles in your way to bonding with them. It’s not easy and certainly not as jolly as they paint it in TV series.; well, at least not at first, because after you will finally manage to create something special and everlasting with your stepchildren, you will know that your patience paid out in a wonderful way. After all, challenges make life more interesting and it’s all worth it if at the end of the obstacle course, you will successfully end the transition process to your new family. However, if you don’t want to make your life harder, this is what you need to avoid as a step parent:


Thanks to effective step parenting, you can have a healthy relationship with your partner.

You might not like your partner’s ex. He/she might be obnoxious, have different ideas, different perceptions. Or he/she might have ended the relationship with your partner on bad terms. Whatever the case, keep your feelings to yourself, because it’s out of line to get involved in their conflicts and disagreements. Otherwise, if you share your feelings towards the parent in front of his/her kids, you might earn their hate. They won’t accept a stranger to tell them how they should feel about their own parents and will think that you are trying to replace the parent, pushing him/her aside. What you need to tell the children is that there is no competition, that they can love you without stopping to love the other parent, because loving one person doesn’t exclude the other. Also, reinforce the idea that the relationship with their parent doesn’t have to change, just because you appeared in their lives.


The key to effective step parenting is to not undermine your partner's authority

Again, don’t try to take over the role of the other parent as soon as you enter the family. It’s something that will backfire, no matter what their relationship with the parent is. If they get along great, you would be seen as the impostor. If they passed away, it’s still traumatic for the children to accept another parental figure in their lives. If they have a bad or non-existent relationship, the kids might fear that you are as unreliable as their biological parent. Just be yourself and try to gain their respect by taking the role of a mentor and friend with more life experience.


Effective step parenting means knowing that rushing a relationship with your step kids is out of question.

If you expect to enter a blended family and have your stepchildren running to hug you the moment they see you for the first time, you are probably very, very delusional. Such relationships don’t just happen – they develop. Unfortunately, there isn’t any magical switch to make you instantly loved. Sure, all families have different dynamics and you might blend with some better than with others by being on the same page more often, but the truth is, family is hard work. It’s a lengthy process and you should expect some rough patches along the way. Remember that as a stepparent, you are to your children first an acquaintance, then a friend and finally – family! Is patience is not your virtue, you have to think of this: you will have years for them to know you and you to know them, nurturing a healthy, loving relationship. Becoming an important figure in your step children’s lives doesn’t have a time limit.


Effective step parenting means avoiding to have favorites among your step kids

…or at least, they shouldn’t. Of course, it’s normal not to consider your stepchildren as your favorite people when you are just getting to know each other and especially if you have children on your own, but try to be as impartial as possible. If you are all living together, don’t go harder on one child and less on the other, just because he/she is your biological one. Don’t show blatant favoritism to your own, in detriment of your stepchildren. Don’t obviously show more love to one and don’t bend the house rules depending on the person who is breaking them. If you show a deeper concern for your biological child, not only will it strain your relationship with your stepchild, but you would also pit the children against each other, because the lack of equality creates tension. Through effective step parenting, you’ll have a lot on your plate, from solving problems from an existing relationship (with your biological children) to working on the newer ones arising in the blended family; as long as you are fair, things will work out.


With effective step parenting, you have to learn how to accept children's personalities

When new people join the family, it might be hard for the children to accept the stepparent. Most of the time, this isn’t something that has to do with the person itself, but with the fact that children have different understandings and personalities; children need more time to form relationships and open themselves, because they aren’t able to pick up the signals that indicate how a person is, as quick as the adults. You have to earn their trust, their love, their respect. Sometimes, they might even feel jealous of the time you spend with their parent and with your own kids – a feeling which gets more intense if they have trouble forming relationships in first place. Adjusting takes time – multiply by 10 your own feelings when you entered the family and you’ll understand how your stepchild feels.


Effective step parenting means learning to respect the family's routine and not make sudden changes.

When there is a routine set in place and someone suddenly tries to change everything, it can get messy. Children don’t like sudden changes – they are creatures of habit and routine. Even the most minor changes, like adding a new food product in their daily meals, can set them off. Instead, try to build up confidence first before coming with your own suggestions and demands. Or, if you are keen on establishing them, give the children time to get used to them.


Stress management is an important part of effective step parenting.

Stress is like a dark cloud hanging above the family and it can come from numerous sources. The children can feel sad over the loss of a family member or over the separation or simply because the other parent forgot about their existence. When a new person enters the picture, they might feel a great deal of anxiety and also bring back many emotions, especially if they are going through grief. The key is to be emphatic towards their pain, without telling them how they should feel. Any separation is traumatic and stressful, so it’s best for them to let it all out, so that they can start the healing process.


When doing effective step parenting, make sure that you and your partner are on the same page.

When entering a new family, your role in disciplining depends on the family dynamics. If your partner is already in charge of it, try not to get too involved for the first year and act more as a mentor. If your partner can’t handle it, step in and make sure you are both on the same page. If the parent who was in charge is the one who left the house, do talk to him/her regarding his/her approaches, learning how he/she was using his/her authority and make sure you reach a consensus. If that parent is unreachable, again, discuss with your partner, agreeing to take that role, but also ensuring that he/she will have your back and not decide against you, shrinking your authority. Have him/her support you and offer explanations to the kids for why they are in trouble. Expect the stepchildren to react negatively, but don’t let yourself feel stressed out over it. Instead, focus on building relationships and rather than punishing your stepchildren, make them see the error of their ways. Before taking any kind of disciplinary action, make yourself respected. Spend one-on-one time with them, without anyone else interfering. Let them know you and be eager to know them. These interactions will show them that you don’t only care about their parent, but also about them.


Effective step parenting means nurturing a loving relationship.

Becoming a step parent is not a life goal. No one dreams of entering someone else’s family and trying to work things out. If parenting is hard in itself, effective step parenting is double trouble and harder to achieve. We learn both on the go, but while parenting starts from zero, step parents have to fill in someone else’s shoes and pick off where they left off, at the same time trying to create genuine bonds with the family. Luckily, not all stepchildren feel negatively towards stepparents, especially if they never knew the other parent. But for those cases when the going gets rough, remember that all good things come to those who wait. It will be exhausting and a painfully-long process of integration, but you will get there eventually. You’ll feel like patting yourself on the back and have a margarita, but you’ll also realize that it was worth it.


Effective step parenting is about being patient and wait for the results.

As mentioned above, blended families are hard work. Functioning like a normal one might take years and you’ll often feel like throwing the towel, but don’t rush. The more you rush, the more you will come off as fake, because you might take desperate measures for your stepchildren to like you, like giving them gifts for no reason at all, except for being more likable. Well, spoiler: they won’t like you overnight. Bonding with stepchildren rarely happens the way adults want it to and researches show that step families are functioning like a family only after 2-3 years.


Effective step parenting means bonding over activities everyone enjoys.

Family time is meant to be an oasis in the desert. It’s that time when you can leave your thoughts somewhere else and just enjoy the moment. As a stepparent, trying to bond with your stepchildren by doing things you both love is a win-win. You all like ice cream? Let’s go there and buy some. You like riding bicycles? Let’s go for a ride in the park? You like roller coasters? Let’s go for a spin…even though I might feel crappy afterwards. The idea is that when children do what they like, they are more open to communication and feel more at ease with the person. As a stepparent, you are first becoming the children’s friend and friends do silly things together.

Step families have complex dynamics for which adults are not prepared for. In most cases, divorces don’t mean a complete split, but rather just a reorganization of said dynamics and it takes time to figure out how everything should work, especially when the family tree actually turns into a family forest. While stepparents feel that they should simply act as parents, researches show that for 40 percent of stepchildren, ‘friend’ is the ideal role, with a significant less percentage thinking that they should act like parents right off the bat. A stepparent seen as a friend is expected to offer support and to encourage positive behavior, without taking a disciplinary role.

With effective step parenting, you will learn how to be a part of the new family.

Stepparents need to learn how to cope with the pressure and not be too demanding of themselves, without expecting big results in a short amount of time. The same thing applies to the biological parents – they should let their new partners to do their thing and let the relationship with their stepchildren progress normally. Acceptance is hard when the kids are tough cookies, but by being loving and genuine, they will eventually see you for what you really are.

Are you a stepparent? How did you bond with your stepchildren?

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