Ten Tips for Effective Step-Parenting

Finding yourself as a stepmom or stepdad to a child or several children might be a daunting situation. There may be behavioral challenges or practical issues that are not easy to deal with.

Here are ten tips a stepparent can apply in his aim for a happy family life:

  • Get involved in the family and do not allow yourself to be detached from their activities.  Even if your stepchildren resist your involvement, keep on trying because it may provide the stepping stone for building a relationship.
  • You need to initiate the relationship by being a friend to your stepchildren and make them know that you want to be involved in their lives. This doesn’t mean that you are trying to displace their biological parent.
  •  Develop your relationship at the pace that the child is setting.  As you take on more parental responsibilities and you learn to trust one another, your stepchild may start thinking of you as a part of the family.
  • Try planning special times with your stepchildren. Shared experiences build intimacy. Spend time with each of your stepchildren and do something for the child that he/she considers as special. For example, you can take your child for movies if he/she is passionate about movies. After the movie, have a hot chocolate together and discuss the movie for a while. This kind of experience can reduce the gap between you and your stepchild.
  • Always remember to present a united front with your spouse. Children may try to play one parent against the other. The children may be insensitive or unfair to the stepparent and the biological parent may take the side of the children. You may have to discuss parenting matters in private.
  • The children should be given freedom but with certain limits. If they don’t experience limitations for their behavior at home, then they may have a tough time to survive in the outside world. Give them the gift of limits.
  • Limits should be consistent, clear and invariably enforced. There should be clarity about the consequences for disobeying. Don’t create a too strict environment at home with rules, have enough of them to create reasonable order at home.
  • Involve children in setting the rules and have family meetings often. You can share the positive experiences, concerns, grievances and formulate rules. Don’t give a child the freedom to have the final say in the making of the rules.
  • Encourage the children to be open about their feelings. Never suppress the child’s feelings if he/she has negative feelings towards you. Instead, tell the child that such a statement hurt you and ask them why they have such feelings. Tell the child that you want to be their friend. Try to be honest about your feelings and encourage them to be honest too.
  • Have a good sense of humor as this keeps all matters in perspective and relieves the stress and tension. Humor can help you to get close to a person and also to resolve issues between parent and stepchild. Humor is not a magic cure for all problems, but lack of humor can kill any relationship.

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