Good step-parenting skills
Step or "blended" families are making up an increasingly larger slice of the family pie. According to the 1980 and 1990 U.S. Census, 5 million households (nearly 1 in 10) are stepfamilies. But, the fact that blended households are so common doesn't make that them any easier. In fact, on average, children from blended families are more likely to report social and emotional difficulties. So, it is important that stepparents do everything they can to help keep the blended family from becoming scrambled.
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Here are a few tips that can help:
Make your marriage a priority
If your marriage isn't solid, you can't expect a solid family life. Wedding day bliss can quickly fade as day-to-day routine takes over; be sure to plan "dates" with your spouse and remember why you married them in the first place! Also make sure to discuss issues such as parental roles, rules, discipline and so on.
Be the adult
Children can rude, disrespectful, manipulative and downright hateful. Loyalty issues, jealousy, hurt and confusion can create a quagmire of emotions in a child, and step-parents are the easiest targets for this morass of feeling. Unfair? Yes, but if you react in anger or build your own protective walls, you will do little to further the relationship and will contribute to an already difficult situation.
While the parents may view the remarriage as a positive, the children's feelings often remain mixed or even resistant. So, it is critical that parents and children try to see things from each other's point of view.
No matter how badly we want a happy and harmonious family, it can take years for family members to adjust. And, even then, the odds are that the stepparent-stepchild relationship may never be as strong as a biological parent-child relationship.
Other important tips for step-parents
- Avoid arguing or discussing problems in your relationship in front of the kids; they will naturally try to widen any chinks in the marital armor.
- Never speak negatively about the children's other parent in front of them.
- Spend one-on-one time with all the children in the house, whether they're yours, mine or ours.
- Acknowledge and address feelings of guilt that may be associated with divorce.
- Though finances may be a difficult topic for many of us to discuss, parents must create a shared vision for financial responsibilities, goals and practices -- and how this also relates to the children. Don't make significant commitments to the children before discussing it with your spouse.
Though these may be good starting points, one size does not fit all. Different personality types and situations create different families. And experts say it can take up to two years (or more) for step-families to stabilize. Use all the resources you need - counseling, websites, seminars, books and more - to help navigate the potentially troubled waters of blended familyhood.