Even in the most seemingly ideal situations, the successful blending of families is often a daunting task. As a new step-parent, it’s natural to want to instantly bond with your step children and create a new family, but what approach is in the actual best interest of the children? Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind as a new step parent:
- Don’t expect a magic flip to be switched on the instant you marry. Adapting to a new situation takes time for anyone, especially children who may still be reeling from their biological parents’ divorce.
- Do take things slow and allow the dynamic to develop naturally. Remember, this is their world of security and familiarity, and you are new. Expect some rough patches and know that love will develop over time.
- Don’t discuss disagreements with your spouse within earshot of the children. Children are curious and likely to blame themselves for most issues.
- Do set aside time to discuss troublesome issues privately with your spouse. If it is an issue that involves the children, choose a time to calmly discuss the issue as a family. This prevents children from playing one parent or step parent against the other and shows a united front. Discuss expectations and rules about each member of the family’s responsibilities in a respectful, cooperative manner.
- Don’t attempt to replace a parent. No matter what your feelings toward the former spouse may be, trying to replace them leads to strong feelings of resentment.
- Do be a role model, source of support, encourager and mentor. Children deserve a listening and caring ear. It is never okay to disparage or bad-mouth a biological parent. When children hear one of their parents is “bad," they believe “part of me is bad.” Keep it positive!