My partner and I have been together for almost four years.
He has children from a previous relationship; I have a child from a prior marriage, and we share a child.
Naturally, I fulfil the role of Step-Mum as he does Step-Dad.
If you fill the role of step-parent or have just begun this journey as I have, it comes with some unfamiliar territory. Let’s talk about it!
Yay, you’re excited! Or perhaps you’re apprehensive and concerned. These are all normal feelings. You love your partner and have decided to take your relationship further by introducing your children, or perhaps you don’t have children, so you’re just introducing yourself into their lives. Simple right??? Our youngest child struggled with integrating families as there was a sudden change. Firstly there was me, this new person who came into his life and was spending a lot of time with his Dad; secondly, there was my daughter. He loved my attention and spending time with me but struggled with the shared attention between his Dad, my daughter and him. This is normal! You need to expect that an adjustment like this is enormous, and for any child, it will take time and constant reassurance, love and support. My daughter also struggled with sharing the attention and, as an only child, was excited about having a step-brother and sister; however, due to a personality clash and constant power struggle, the two youngest argued often, which she was not used to.
As adults, we must realise we cannot expect children to get along. As much as we know our children, we don’t see how they’re thinking, and you must talk with them often and reassure them. Remember, they’ve often been through a marriage or relationship breakdown. No partnership is supposed to end, and it’s a big deal when two parents are no longer together. Children need to feel secure and loved.
Conflict is normal! How do we handle it? Although you are a step-parent, you are not their Mum or Dad. Your stepchildren, not all, but often have another active parent in their lives. This is either Mum or Dad. Mum and Dad are solely responsible for all discipline, medical decisions etc. We, as step-parents, must have boundaries. These boundaries should not be crossed. I am firm on this statement. You may disagree, but you need to be a positive role model in this child’s life, not the parent unless you have full legal guardianship, which is an entirely different set of circumstances. You’re not to scream or shout at your stepchild. No matter how frustrated they make you feel. Their mother or father is responsible for making sure they are disciplined. If you are in charge of the child or children and the parent cannot discipline them, talk to them how you would speak to your child’s friend who misbehaves. If you raise your voice at your stepchild, you must apologise and discuss this with your partner. Conflict is expected but remember, as positive role models, we are always the adult and must show resolution and be apologetic for behaviour that’s not acceptable.
You and your partner need to talk about boundaries constantly, rules, shared duties and fairness. If your partner is offloading their parental tasks, you must discuss this. It’s not ok to take on what they should provide for their child.
Children measure everything, and the most significant measure is time. Time can feel like an eternity; if they feel like one child gets more time than another, it can cause more tension or jealousy. Your partner needs to offer their child one-on-one; it’s not your job to fill that position. Yes, be fair but remember your child doesn’t get discounted time. It would be best if you still had your special days as you did before. Security is critical, and offering protection and consistency is so important.
There is so much to share on blending families. If you have any questions about stepparenting or would like me to cover a specific topic, of course, in my opinion, then please reach out, and I will share my perspective. In the meantime, it’s a rollercoaster of sometimes trial and error, but I think it’s an adjustment phase for everybody involved; take it slowly and communicate regularly with your partner so that you’re always on the same page across parenting techniques when it comes to your stepchildren.
You are right if you guessed I was a Taurus in my last blog post! Indeed I can be stubborn as a bull.
Have a great week ahead,