Friday, January 22, 2010

Are You A Good Step Parent?

Being A Good Step-Parent, Hard But Not Impossible

- When marrying into an already-established family, how can you get your new spouse's kids to like you, without being a pushover?

Sometimes we forget that there are other people involved when a couple gets divorced, especially if that couple has kids. When one member of that couple remarries, there gets introduced into everyone's life something completely different than what existed before, which can't be easy on anyone.

I have a friend who just recently became a stepmother. It can be a hard job - you don't want to encroach on boundaries; you want to get close but not invade privacies. The do's and dont's of step-parenting are hard to pin down: how do you know what to do? Should you discipline them? Spoil them? Neither? Both?

I asked around. According to the step-parents I know, it's important - at the very beginning - to be neither the child's best friend, nor their worst enemy. You are not that child's parent. Assuming you dated your spouse for awhile, and the child has gotten to know you, there's nothing wrong with kind trivialties, but know that a marriage to someone does not create a magical step-child/step-parent relationship overnight.

The most difficult thing is that you constantly feel like you are not the most important thing in your spouse's life, their child is. That can put a damper on things. What happens if you get into a disagreement? What happens if THEY get into a disagreement? The possible problems are endless, but so are the possible solutions.

A friend of mine whose blog I read every day often writes about how her family consisted of one mother and one father and some siblings, and now she has two mothers, two fathers, and even more siblings. Her parents got divorced and each remarried - each to someone with kids. The idea of "one big happy family" doesn't have to be a myth. It can happen, if you know your place.

My advice? Use your spouse as a guide. See how he/she feels your place in their child's life should progress. That way, you'll know that you're never stepping on toes.

(Is anyone here a step-parent? Share your story with us, and give hope to other would-be or soon-to-be step-parents that happiness isn't impossible!)

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