The stepparent role traditionally often carried several negative stereotypes. It could be the "evil step-monster," the out of touch adult uninterested in kids, or a parent who showed a clear bias toward their own biological child. The blending of families, however, is a fact of life for parents who have remarried or have married someone who has children.
The children will also have their own feelings on the matter and their own way of processing this change. The parents need to be aware of this and help the children as best they can, but it is also essential for parents and their spouses to think about how to become an apparently loving stepparent in this new family unit.
The best-case scenario is that the stepparent seamlessly comes in and organically develops a rapport with their stepchildren that leads to an impactful and meaningful relationship. It may be a role that is less than a parent, but an important figure nonetheless. However, some missteps, confusion and growing pains are a natural part of a process which may even include spouses from previous marriages.
Tips and strategies
There is no one solution to family building, but patience and understanding will be necessary. Experts at Kids Health also recommend:
- Start slow: Lasting relationships develop over time, so let things develop naturally.
- Put needs first: Addressing needs, not wants, is the priority, so focus more on the relationship, consistent rules and affection, rather than buying children things they want.
- Set house rules: Try to keep these relatively close to the rules in the children's other home. This leads to less conflict with exes and a more consistent and seamless upbringing. It also avoids labeling one family as "fun" and the other as "strict."
- Team building is good: Try to find fun activities where all the children and stepchildren are engaged. It can be cooking or games at home or outdoor recreation like biking. These activities can grow into new family traditions.
- Respect all parents: It is smart to show respect to the other parents, or to be respectful if they passed away. Criticizing the other parents often backfires and causes the children to become upset.
Effective parenting plans a must
Enabling parents to have the time to put these tips into action means a good parenting plan or two parenting plans that could conceivably not conflict with each other. Parents understand that a family's schedule can be demanding, but it becomes more so when another adult, perhaps with children of their own, enters the picture.
An experienced Board-certified Family Law expert attorney in Collin County, Dallas County, Denton County or elsewhere throughout Texas can work with clients to create workable parenting plans even while considering (and perhaps revising) the obligations outlined in plans from previous marriages.