With the divorce and remarriage rate so high these days, there is a good chance that you just might find yourself a step parent.
I’d like to offer some tips on being a step parent:
Always remember that the child already has both a mom and a dad. Depending on the age of the children when you enter their lives, there is a good chance rules and guidelines are already established. It will help both you and the child if you support the current rules versus trying to create new rules.
Encourage the child(ren) to call you by your first name. Unless the circumstances are such that you’ll be adopting the child at a very young age and the other parent is not involved, don’t confuse and hurt the child by expecting to be called mom or dad. Should the child choose to call you mom or dad, that’s great, but until that time encourage them to call you by your first name.
Speak with the child about how they would like to be introduced. I have one friend with a step son and I did not know he was a “step” until very recently. She never distinguished him from her other children. She referred to all of the kids as “her kids” and introduced them all as “my kids”. I’ve seen other parents say “this is my daughter Amy and this is my step daughter Cindy”. Why make the distinction, unless the child has specifically asked you to?
Do not speak poorly of the child’s other parent, regardless of circumstances. You will put the child on the defensive and you will being eating away at the child’s own self worth each time you put down a parent that they believe they are a part of.
Encourage your step children to spend time alone not only with your spouse, but also with their other parent. The more a child sees your support of these relationships, the happier the child will be and the more they will see you as an ally, not an enemy.
Being a step parent is not easy and the family might need some assistance from a neutral party, such as a family counselor. Be willing to work hard at the relationship between you and your step children. Be willing to listen and be willing to make changes that will make family life together more enjoyable for everyone.