A blended family often presents special challenges for every member, parents and children alike. As you strive to define and carry out the role of stepmother in your family, you may struggle at times with frustrations and resentments, stemming from the issues involved with parenting another woman’s children. A positive approach and attitude should prove beneficial for everyone and help you establish a parenting role that fits your family.
1 Develop realistic expectations about your role as stepmother. If your stepchildren’s mother is alive and actively involved, her children will usually have an allegiance to her, warns extension educator Nancy Recker, with the Ohio State University. The children might develop resentments toward you, especially if you try to move too quickly into a disciplinary role. The children may also resent you moving too quickly to try to establish an overly familiar and loving relationship with them. Moving more slowly with familiarity and discipline is usually more effective in a stepparent/stepchild role.
2 Communicate clearly with your spouse about roles and expectations, advises the Dr. Phil website. Often, it’s advisable for the stepparent to step out of direct discipline of stepchildren, letting the biological parent handle these issues to avoid resentments developing in the family. Set family standards and rules together as a team, but remove yourself from assuming a disciplinary role with your stepchildren.
3 Set expectations with the children together with your spouse so every family member understands the family rules. Sitting down together as a family to have this discussion is ideal, to ensure that everyone hears the rules, has a chance to ask questions and understands expectations. During this conversation, allow your spouse to present the majority of the expectations and adopt a role of cooperative support.
4 Follow the children’s pace for the development of your stepparenting relationship, advises licensed marriage and family therapist Ron Deal, writing for Focus on the Family. The children will let you know when they are ready for affection. Until you see indications of this progression, hang back and continue your role of supportive, yet distant, stepmother. Depending on the age of the kids and other family circumstances, a strong loving connection might take a short time, a longer time or it might never happen.
5 Seek positives about your stepchildren and your blended family and focus on these attributes, advises Carri Taylor, certified communications skills trainer and personal coach, writing for Empowering Parents. Get to know your stepchildren by observing and interacting with them whenever possible. Make comments to your spouse about positive interchanges, behaviors and situations that occur. Provide positive feedback to your stepchildren, as appropriate. Adopting this positive attitude can create an overall positive feeling in your family.
6 Allow your spouse to have time with his kids without you to ensure that their relationship remains strong. If your stepchildren perceive your marriage interfering with their relationship with their dad, they may feel resentment toward you.
7 Create a positive environment for the entire family, including your spouse, the stepchildren and any biological children you may have. Institute regular routines of meals, homework and bedtimes, advises the American Psychological Association. Maintain consistent discipline with your own kids to ensure no resentments between stepsiblings occur. Stay close to your spouse to keep your relationship strong.
- Ohio State University: The Stepmother’s Role in a Blended Family
- Dr. Phil: What Role Should a Stepparent Play?
- Focus on the Family: Smart Stepparenting
- Empowering Parents: Blended Family? The 5 Secrets of Effective Stepparenting
- American Psychological Association: Stepfamily Success Depends on Ingredients
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images