Anyone who has ever taken on the role of step-parenting will know it can be a roller coaster ride of thoughts, emotions and challenges. In most cases step-parents willingly welcome a partner’s child into their life and want to be a loving nurturing parent, yet there can be times when negative feelings associated with raising another person’s child begin to undermine the best of intentions. It’s important to recognise how you are feeling, be open and honest about it with your partner and develop strategies to overcome difficult times.
Some tips to help develop and maintain healthy step-parent/child relationships include;
- Remember building trust and developing bonds takes time and patience. Let your step-child set the pace and don’t force yourself into his/her life. Allow time for the child to get used to having you around.
- Reinforce you are not trying to replace the child’s mum or dad. Make this clear to help avoid resentment coming into the relationship.
- Where possible, encourage the child to have a positive relationship with both biological parents and encourage the child to spend quality one-on-one time with each parent.
- Take an active interest in the child’s life and create opportunities to do things together. This will help you both get to know each other.
- Always be courteous and respectful when speaking about the child’s biological parents, regardless of how you might feel about the person. Speaking negatively may lead to the child feeling resentful towards you and feeling they have to choose who to be loyal to.
- Be respectful of the child’s privacy and don’t invade his/her space unless absolutely necessary.
- Ensure a united front with your partner. Aim to be on the same page from a parenting perspective, setting and maintaining boundaries, consequences and consistency. Enlist your partners help in emphasising you are to be respected and any instructions issued by you are to be followed.
- Remember to communicate. It’s a time of change for everyone, so it’s important everyone feels included and on the same page.
- Plan ahead and make sure everyone knows what is going on in relation to time spent with parents, pick-ups and drop-offs etc.
- Make time for fun and laughter. Be aware of the positives each day brings and celebrate them.
- Where possible, take regular time out to do the things you enjoy. This will go a long way towards maintaining a positive mindset.
The road to happy step-parenting can have many ups and downs. Having someone to talk to can help make sense of your emotions and overcome any negative feelings you may be having. It can also help you to put things into perspective and explore ways in which you can move forward with positivity and confidence.
If you would like support during your step-parenting journey, please call Karen Cummins at Mindful Crossroads counselling services on 0400 416 535 or fill in the “Contact” section on the Mindful Crossroads website to arrange a confidential discussion.