Becoming a step-parent is is an exciting new journey but the nerves that come along with it are to be expected. Save yourself some worry with advice from family relationship experts and other step-parents who tread a similar path already.
Managing the ups and downs
Renee Mill is a clinical psychologist, parenting and anxiety specialist as well as accomplished author. There are so many ups and downs for step-parents that Renee wrote an article to help them through. Here’s some of her advice:
“Biological parents, do not expect the step parent to love your children immediately. The most you can ask for in the beginning is kindness and civility.
New step parents, do not expect to love your step child. It is common not to like your step child. Fake it till you make it. Do it because you love your partner. Do it because every child needs love and it is the right thing to do. Be kind and work on developing a relationship over time.
Manage your expectations - the younger the child, the sooner you will form a bond. It will take two years for a child who met you when they were two to accept you. It will take 10 years for a ten year old to do the same.”
Find her full article here, or follow on Facebook and Youtube.
Create your own memories
When you think about your own family and the bonds you share we imagine a few lovely memories come to mind. Creating family memories with your stepchildren is a great way to move your relationship forwards. This could be as simple as going for ice cream on a hot day or teaching them a magic trick you know. If you have a reluctant stepchild then choosing an activity that is mostly about them should help. Hardly any child would say no to a chance to redecorate their room with fun kids furniture. You can enjoy shopping together, putting together their hand-picked kids bed and the end result is something you’ve achieved as a pair.
Thoughts from a step-dad
Ben Leggo, from Coco Rose Interiors, first became a step-parent almost a decade ago, when his stepdaughter was only 7 months old. Now aged 9, they share a fantastic relationship that Ben says is just like any other father-daughter bond. Here’s his advice for new step-parents:
“There are only three key attributes to focus on to become a good step parent
Patience - I think the overriding aspect of being a good step parent is having patience. There will be many external influences that govern how quickly your relationship builds with your step-children and often it will be very slowly, regardless of your own wishes.
Communication - actively and openly communicate with your partner to set your boundaries. Always respect each others and your child's boundaries. Only once you have developed enough trust within these limits should you take the next step. It's important to make sure both parents and children feel comfortable moving forward.
Love and Support - patience and communication is the only way to develop your partner and step-child's trust. Once you have it, make sure you nurture it. Love and support them as your own and equally to any biological children you have. Forget using the term "step" and just call them your son or your daughter. After all, you are all one family.”
Find out more about Coco Rose Interiors on Instagram or Pinterest.
Thoughts from a step-mum
Mel Brodie is a mindset and soul coach and founder of Luminate Life, a personal development brand with a mission to support women to shift out of overwhelm and to reclaim joy and balance in their lives. She too has first-hand experience as a stepparent and has written a blog post aimed at new stepmums. Here’s our favourite snippets of her advice:
“Learn Each Other’s Love Language
Learning how to identify and speak the love language of your new family members can be a game changer.
When I recognized that I was communicating with my step-daughter through my love language, acts of service, rather than her primary love languages of quality time and words of affirmation, I shifted my energy and focus into ways of communicating that were more meaningful to her. Sharing what my love language was also helped us to deepen our connection and develop a better understanding and appreciation of each other.
Be Kind to Yourself
There is no guide book on being the perfect step-mum and there is a steep learning curve that goes with the new territory. Inevitably there will be times you don’t get it right.
At these times. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Look for the learning. Acknowledge you are human. Forgive Yourself. Work out what you might do differently or better next time. Apologise if appropriate (great way to role model accountability). But above all, keep moving forward. You’ve totally got this!”
Check out Lumintae Life on Instagram and Facebook.
Appreciate that there are different perspectives
Succeeding in your role as a step-parent often relies on your ability to appreciate all the perspectives in your new family. From what you think a step-parent should be to how your partner sees it and importantly, how your step-children view the new family dynamics. Jeff Withers, a relationship coach from Love Dynamics Global, often sees a lack of perspective becoming the wedge between family relations in his work.
“Critical to successfully taking on a role as a step-parent is to appreciate how to engage with family members, both existing and new, and know they (especially the children) will not always see/experience things in the same way as others in the family. So many step-parents would love to do the best they can with their existing knowledge, skills and resources but they don’t always know the best way to achieve this. Success comes from understanding each family member’s natural talents, gifts, strengths and challenges, and being able to engage with them through understanding, awareness and willing mutual commitment. This became only too real when a client mentioned recently “I was upset and confused the other day when my 5-year-old grandson confided in me, saying “I don’t think I love daddy anymore … I can’t do anything right no matter what I do’”. An opportunity to make a real difference in a child’s life lost through not knowing how, or being prepared, to understand and connect.”
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The hardest part of becoming a step-parent is taking those first few steps. There might be uncertain times ahead but the journey is definitely worth it.