Being a Good Stepparent is Possible!
When I became a step parent almost 20 years ago, someone forget to give me a new owners manual on navigating step parenting and how to survive a blended family. And when I say blended it's definitely a blended mix, because not only are there 2 people in a love relationship (the new couple) but there are the children, who may or may not like the idea of having another parent on board: Then there are also the past significant others, who also may or may not be happy at the thought of you not only sleeping with their significant ex but also parenting their children.
It's quite an adventure, to say the least, and in the spirit of having been there and done that, I offer up a few good tips in how to be a good step-parent (or at least try!)
Can You Be a Good Step Parent?
Some Rules of Engagement in Step Parenting
First of all, remember that you are entering into an already made family. Even if the "real" mother/father of the children is or isn't in the picture now, they were at one point, and a relationship has already been established, whether good or bad.
Your new step children may be wildly ecstatic at having you as the new step-parent, or they might look at a you as the newest adversary on the block.
The significant exes may be feel the same about you, and all kinds of complications can arise if you don't keep a level head. After all, YOU are the one that has decided to come into this scenario, for better or worse, so don't come in expecting to save the day or start a whole new family. There are already certain ties established so you might as well get used to that fact!
So to make smoother sailing for your new step parenting role:
1. Accept that you are coming into already established relationships, whether good or bad, and prepare yourself for the consequences of that. Parents who have divorced or lost a parent can bring LOTS of emotional baggage into a new relationship, and so can the kids.
2. When you ARE feeling adversarial remember that old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer? This can apply here too, even though you may feel that you are the adversary try to keep all lines of communication open as humanly possible, as this will help not only the children thrive but establish boundaries for better relationships down the road.
3. NEVER AND I REPEAT NEVER, put the other parent down in front of your step-kids. This can put them in the position of feeling like they have to "PICK" who's best, and this is NEVER a good thing to do. EVER. This is their other parent, and they probably love their parent, and hatred or dislike between parents can cause IRREVOCABLE HARM. Putting kids in the middle is NEVER a good thing to do anyway, in any type of situation!
4. Listen to your step kids and to their dreams and goals. Most likely they just want to be able to know that's it's OK to be themselves, that you are there for the long haul and that you care about them now - and that you care about their future. (If you don't like this part you shouldn't have signed up for the job!) If you are not willing to be a parent to this child and help them in their life and to be a productive member of society, you might want to rethink if step-parenting is even the right role for you.
5. Try, and I say try, because this is sometimes a hard thing to do, NOT to show favoritism to your own children and/or children that may come in the future. Make sure that your stepchild knows that they are a loved and valued member of the family, and that they are not "Second Best".
6. Never ever "triangulate" between your spouse and the stepchild. Triangulation is a twisted relationship where 3 are involved, usually the parents and the stepchild. All kinds of manipulative and destructive behavior can occur when the child/ and or parents pit one against the other. Always keep in mind, that there is the relationship between you and your spouse without the child, the relationship between the real parent and the child without you, and the relationship between the stepchild and you, without the parent. Establishing these separate and distinct relationships early on can help you maintain proper boundaries and to remember that 3's a crowd when it comes to relationship differences.Yes you can have fun as a family but when it comes to differences NEVER EVER argue these out in front of the kids. Kids are smart and can pick up on indecision and loopholes, and before you know it it can and will be used against you!
Impossible You Say?
You may be faced with a situation that you feel is just flat out impossible to repair- that either the step-kids, the step parent or parent is just out of control, and that nothing you say or do seems to be right.
This is the time to step back out of the ring and re-access what is happening. Perhaps this is time for YOU to go get counseling. Even if they don't want to go to counseling go for yourself! It's very important to get wise advice on handling step parenting issues BEFORE they break up the family. Many things can be worked through, even the most difficult, if you are really committed to sticking it out with your step-family. And if you are faithful and stick it out, working through these problems will even strengthen the ties that once seemed impossible!
Being a good step-parent is not only possible but can be one of the most rewarding things you can do as a person. Raising and caring for someone else's child is no easy task - but it can be done, with insight and perseverance!
(Dorsi Diaz is a freelance writer, mother and step-mother)
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on May 31, 2014:
Dear Hockeygal26, I really feel for your situation. It sounds like your fiancé did not have a very active role in the 18 years old life before her mother "dropped" her off at your door. Sounds like he doesn't really know to how to handle his new found responsibility but you know what, she isn't yours or his "responsibility"....even though she is only 18 she is now an adult and making "adult like" decisions like getting pregnant. I would not give up your relationship with your fiancé, I would sit down with him and decide how much both of you are willing to help the 18 year old and to what extent...if that be money, help baby-siting for her to get a job at some point, providing a listening ear if she asks....chances are when the baby comes she may do a whole lot of growing up (hopefully) Don't let her bad choices ruin your life or your relationship - she is an adult and needs to start making better decisions and the only one that can make that happen is her. It might mean her going to live in a shelter (which btw many shelters offer a lot of help - childcare, job search, schooling, help finding a place, sometimes deposits even) She sounds pretty immature and she is only 18 - and she has still lots of growing up to do - but it's not your responsibility to change her decisions. I would get a good book on setting boundaries with "adult" children and go from there. Things may turn out better than you think, it's all about those boundaries, I wish you the best of luck and feel free to stop by and post anytime :-)
Hockeygal26 on May 31, 2014:
Please help. I don't want to be a statistic of a failed relationship due to step children. My fiancé and I have lived together for 3 years. We hopefully will be married in the fall. I have 2 younger children now 9 and 12 from a previous marriage. My fiancé is active in their care and parenting. We present as a united front and have the same goals of parenting with my children. My fiancé is not seen as a replacement for their father but understand he is a parental figure. The problem enlies with his youngest child. She just turned 18. She was living with her mother and was removed from her high school for violence. My fiancé had a more distant role with her. The best way I can describe it it was more like he is her friend. Nothing was done about her violent tendencies or behavior. She did not attend school and when I mentioned to have her come live with us. He told me no because it interfered in relationships with her friends. We lived in a different down about 40 miles away. Her mother remarried in the summer of 2013 and dropped her off at our front door. She was enrolled in a home school program but it wasn't be monitored and she was left to her own devices. Needless to say she wasn't doing the school work. She didn't have a job. My fiancé was just giving her money for gas and cigarettes. She didn't help with any chores around the house. I asked my fiancé for some type of consistency in regards to child responsibilities as it is expected from him me as well that my kids do household chores, go to school do homework and show respect to the adults of the house. It was at this time my older daughter was saying well if she doesn't have to go to school and do chores why do I. Essentially she was asking why she had to do the right things when my fiances daughter didn't and was essentially getting everything handed to her. My fiancé did attempt to get his daughter to do some school work but then after a week of this he allowed her to shack up with friends . She would return long enough (1 day) to do an hour of school work to get her gas money, car registration and insurance paid for and her cigarette money. My fiancé allowed her to smoke telling me she was addicted to cigarettes at 17. Regardless one day she turned 18 and left. He would meet her once a week to give her money. Now she has no high school education, no job and is pregnant. She is due in a few months. She is staying with whom we think is the father who is 17 or with friends. I don't know because I feel I can't believe either party. My fiancé included. When it comes to this child he tells me one thing but does another. I've stayed in the background. I sat with her before she was pregnant while she was living with us and tried to help her figure out how to finish high school and get into college. I took her to an advisor at a local college to try and help get her on tract as well. This wasn't forced she asked me. I bought her a new computer so that she could complete her schooling. I took the excuse I'm uncomfortable using your computer away. Now this. I'm not sure what to do. I love my fiancé but I don't want my young children thinking it's ok not to finish high school get pregnant and live off the hard working tax payer. Because with my fiance's pregnant daughter that's what is happening. There is no plan. There is no remorse for her mistake. I fear for the unborn child, but I feel like there is nothing I can do.Every time the situation is mentioned there is an argument. Please help. If my feelings are wrong please tell me.
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on May 13, 2013:
@Don) So sorry to hear that Don. Sounds like you've had some really bad experiences.
Don on April 26, 2013:
If anyone asked me about being a step-parent, I would give a resounding DON'T!!! You are in a no win situation. Yoou'll be damned if you do and damned if you don't. The "step" part is because they will step all over you and use you when they need or want something. I am 63 now and had no children of my own. I's love to divorce these leeches. I know I sound harsh, but I've put up with this for over 30 years. I've learned, but a little too late!
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on September 21, 2012:
@Jay) Thanks for reading and I'm glad the hub helped you. Teenagers are a strange breed - I raised 3 of them (now adult men)...sometimes it's hard to figure out why they do things they do. Have you asked her why she doesn't call you Dad anymore? Maybe this could open up a conversation...maybe she's feeling some guilt towards her own dad that died (just speculating here?) You could bring it up nonchalantly, even jokingly...see what her response is. I know it probably hurts that she's not calling you dad right now, but I wouldn't take it too personally. My step son went through a period as a teen that he didn't call me mom anymore either. Now he's 32 and always calls me mom... Let me know how things go and good luck!
JayMarquez on September 21, 2012:
I took some time to read your deal on step-parenting and actually learned a few new things that I will keep in mind and remember....however I am dealing with a situation that I have never in my life of 36 yrs, have I had to deal with and I am a little confused on what or how to deal with it cause I am feeling kinda awkward. I just turned 36 this past August and have been with this woman whom is 42 and has two beautiful girls that are twins and both 13 yrs old; they're both kinda mentally challenged and one is in a wheelchair with spina bifida....anyway, I have been with this woman for a year and a couple of months now, her name is Shawna and the two girls' names are Hope and Heather. Well here recently Heather asked her mother if she had to call me dad and her mother told her no, that it's perfectly up to her...their real father passed away 5 or so yrs ago and from what she has told me was never around to help her because he was a drunk...anyhow, for all this time they both would call me dad on their own, and now Heather all of a sudden doesn't want to call me dad anymore and I don't understand why?? Hopie in the wheelchair still calls me dad and that means a lot to me since I have been their for them all since day one that we and Shawna got together...I don't understand what or how to deal with this...I still love them both equally and always will...I'm confused Dorsi...can you help me?
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 19, 2012:
@renee) Did they have a long and close relationship - the son and her ex-boyfriend? Perhaps she feels it is an important relationship? Do you live far from his son?
renee' on March 19, 2012:
My husbands ex-wife sends their son to her ex-boyfriends house on the weekends to visit. My husband only gets to see his son 2 months in the summer. I find this odd, what are your thoughts?
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 15, 2012:
@SJW) Could it be that they are trying to give their grand-daughter that mom figure since they know their daughter cannot play that role now? Can you ask them so you don't wonder? It could be something very benign. As for calling you mom, I see no problem with that. My stepson is 31 now and calls me mom still, even though he is close to his real mom too. I consider it an honor!
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 15, 2012:
@Ann) I am really to sorry to hear this. Most "kids" are not ready to be on their own when they are 18. Especially nowadays! As long as he stays in school, or gets a job (or both) and remains respectful, I personally see no reason to push him out. I would have a good heart to heart talk with your husband if you can.
Dorsi Diaz (author) from The San Francisco Bay Area on March 15, 2012:
@courtney) Weird you would bring this up. Cutting hair seems to bring out the worst in people sometimes. I had a boyfriend that cut my sons hair when I was gone and wow was I mad! He had curly hair though and he cut off all the curls!
Then I tried to cut my grand-daughters hair out of her eyes a few months ago (bangs too) and my son had a fit!
At this point, yes I would just apologize and say you never meant to start a huge problem...and the boy, well he LET you cut his hair (it's not like he's a baby and had no choice) I think dad needs to talk to him about being respectful to you. Kids can and will manipulate situations - especially smart ones!
@Anon) That's very sad. I hate to hear stuff like that.