When I was a child, the first thing that came to mind around the topic of stepparents was the Brady Bunch. In my mind, it was an easy transition between families. Kids and parents are both blended and now shared a mix of each other's rules and traditions.
But life isn't always like the Bradys. Often times a stepparent is becoming a parent for the first time when they marry someone who has already had a pre-started family. Marrying someone we love is easy, but falling in love with their children isn't as easy as it sounds. And on that note, do stepparents need to love their new spouse's child? Is that something we say, just to say it, or is that how we're really supposed to feel? After all, falling in love isn't really the easiest thing to do with kids who aren't our own. It takes time.
Women often like to share their tips and tricks when it comes to raising a family, but men need the same support. In terms of becoming a stepdad, these dads needed some advice on how to handle their new bonus child, and these 20 moms (and some kids) were all too happy to lend a helping hand.
Just because you might be ready to take this child and fully accept the stepdad role doesn't mean the child will be ready. As the Huffington Post notes "Some children may also be going through abandonment issues, and may even think their new step-parent will take their other parent away." Depending on the age of the child, timing can be critical. One mom on Reddit told a dad that instead of taking charge and forcing your stepchild to "be ready" to accept their new family, let them set the tone. "Let the kids set the tone for your interaction, and don't be offended if they don't immediately embrace you. Don't be offended if they haven't embraced you after a year, even."
After so many years with their biological parents, or just their mom, having a new parenting figure can scare them off.
When you marry someone who already has a child, are you supposed to love that child as much as you love their mother? Well, that's a hard question; and it's different for everyone. Many stepparents shared their input on this question and had different takes on the question. Some explained that you had to love the child because there's no other choice. If you love their mother, she comes as a packaged deal. Others, however, explained you don't need to rush your emotions for this new bonus child. Love and relationships take time; there's no need to rush that with a child or teen.
"You're not my dad!" can be heard in practically every Lifetime movie, right? Often times we see a stepparent trying their best to parent but seem to overstep an invisible line that offends their stepchild.
If their biological dad is still in the picture, try to create a healthy relationship between parties to be on the same team."It is important to acknowledge they have a special love and relationship with both their parents and you are not there to inhibit that in any way," Huffington Post reminds us. "Also the love that you have for their mother or father is also special but different and it is not your intention to come between that relationship."
Most men have this territorial complex where they're the "man of the house." What they say goes, and that rule seems even stricter with their step-kids. But in situations where you're trying to create a bond with your stepchild, it's best to let their mother take charge. Martin-Ko from Huffington Post says, "You are entering a family situation where there may be rules and routines already established that you may need to adapt to." So it's not always the child that needs to learn the new way of the law, it can be the stepparent, too. "Ask your partner where they may like you to help, and always have them be the one in charge of creating boundaries and discipline."
Eventually, most step-kids are going to push and pull. They're going to test the waters a bit to see what they can get away with. They've known their mother their entire life, but with a new man in the picture (with a new set of eyes), they may not be able to get away with as much. This can come with a lot of disagreements, but no matter what, be a stable force for them. One mom told a stepdad on Reddit, "No matter how hard they push you away, be a rock. Say, I love you, and will take care of you regardless of what you say to me or do. Be the adult." Finally some wise advice on a public forum!
"In a stepfamily, everyone comes with their own fantasy. It’s completely normal and inevitable – but if you hang on to the fantasy too tightly, it could very well fall you," one mom told Hey Sigmund. In the heart of each relationship, both women and men are so in love that they believe they can get through everything; eventually, their child will learn to love their new stepparent. It's beautiful in theory, but not every blended family gels right away, so don't get discouraged if your 'new' family isn't as close as you had envisioned. This isn't just a new situation for you, it's new for your spouse and stepchild(ren), too.
Parenting is going to come with a lot of highs and lows, making it hard sometimes to see the bigger picture; but no matter what, stay focused on the good that's being done. As Hey Sigmund reiterates "It’s likely that at some point you will feel like an outsider, as well as jealous, lonely, resentful, confused and inadequate." You’ll also feel a range of emotions depending on the day or mood, but instead of constantly trying to change something, try accepting it. "Let it unfold and most importantly don’t take it personally, though I know that’s easier said than done."
Every family has their own set of rules. Sometimes moms are in charge of curfew hours while dad's in charge of disciplinary action. Nevertheless, in times where you don't know how to handle a sensitive subject, simply relay it back to their bio parent. No harm, no foul, right? One mom advised a new stepdad, "'Ask your mother' is probably the best route, or 'Talk to your mother about what you've done' as the case may be. If the wife is gone, you can put down your own rules as you're running the house while she's away but they should at least be compatible with her methods."
Although the child may not be biologically yours, making sure your house rules match their mother's and are consistent is more important than you realize.
Have you ever heard the reference "we have two ears and one mouth for a reason"? It subtly suggests that we should be doing more listening than talking. "Sometimes parents need to vent about their kids. If your wife does, just listen. Adding your voice to those conversations will absolutely come back to haunt you," one mom told Reddit. While you're going to have days where you need to vent too, sometimes those true words are harder to hear as a biological mom. When roles are reversed and your wife is upset over something your step-kid did, just listen and try to come up with a solution together.
There are many paths you can take when it comes to parenting, especially as a stepparent. You can totally take control of the situation head-on; you can allow your wife to lead the way in terms of how to handle your stepchild, or you can ignore everything I said and let your stepchild lead the way. Martin-Ko told Huffington Post, "Perhaps they may be a bit closed to you in the beginning, and you need to be the pillar, sturdy amidst all their emotions," she says. Take note of their interests or hobbies and try building an organic relationship."When the child is comfortable, try to carve out one-to-one time with the child, as this will solidify bonding."
Quality time is important for any adult/child bond. Regardless if you're their parent, stepparent, or grandparent. Kids need their adult family members in their life for guidance and love. When you become a stepparent, don't overdo it by going all out on activities or gifts. Keep it simple and do things you both like doing. "Make sure you spend time with each of them alone, doing something you can both enjoy and talk," one woman reminded a new stepdad. It's also a good idea to do some things without their mother around. Learn about the things they want to do or are interested in, and vice versa. Make a day out of it.
I'm sure many stepdads already know this but, they are not their child's biological dad, nor should he try to take that title if the bio. dad is still in their stepchild's life. A woman told Reddit, "If the child's biological father is in the picture at all, do not confuse the child by making him think you are his father. It's just unethical." This, of course, changes if the biological father is out of the picture. Then you can take charge of the situation and do what feels comfortable. Trying to be someone you're not though is a surefire way to be resented.
Not every child has a biological dad in their life. Maybe they never met them; maybe they passed away; maybe they're a bad influence... If you have a bond with your stepchild so deep that they're like your own, you can have that adoption discussion with both them and their mom when the time is right.
A stepdad told Today his story about the adoption discussion with his stepdaughter and it went better than he thought. "I told her I wanted to adopt her so she and her mother and I would be a family," he said. "However, I said if I adopted her, she had to listen to me and couldn't pull the old 'you're not my father' card out. I told her I would be her father, and she was OK with it and it was never a problem."
The words stepparent and stepchild sound so cold, don't they? Maybe it's because of all the Disney movies showing how stepparents were mean and nerve-racking. Nevertheless, you and your stepchild can create terms that work better for you. He or she doesn't need to call you by your first name, but they don't necessarily need to call you "dad" either. Showing her dislike for the words "step," a woman told Reddit that her blended family did whatever felt natural that day. "Both my exes referred to my sons as theirs, and their bio. dads never had a problem with it; my boys would introduce them as 'my other dad.'"
We all have different relationships with our parents. Some are closer than others and have different priorities. "Don’t try to replicate the relationship your child has with their biological parent. This runs the risk of inflaming the loyalty bind but it also takes away the opportunity for you to create something new," a mother told Hey Sigmund. As a new parenting figure in their lives, you have your own experiences to share; experiences that are different than the ones they were accustomed to. This can be precious in a child's new relationship with you. "Find new things to share that are different to what the child has with his or her biological parent."
"When they do something you're absolutely against, and they will, like badmouthing mamma bear or stealing money from your work pants, don't react or fly off the hinges," one mom reminded stepdads on Reddit. After all, kids will be kids and everything is an opportunity to learn something new. In times of outbursts, "treat it as an opportunity for unbiased learning, anchored through logic but delivered with love and warmth that only a real father could be capable of." Sure, like any parent, you'll want to freak out when your stepchild does something wrong, but you need to take everything in stride so as to not lose them forever.
Does your stepchild have the same interests as you? That's the perfect chance to do some bonding together. Go to a soccer game, play cards, have household movie nights... On the contrary, if your stepchild has different interests as you, use this time to learn something new!
A mother explained on Reddit how her ex-husband is newly married and it upsets her when her son's new stepmom doesn't go to any of his "school events, soccer games, or any activity of his." It's upsetting because these things are important to the child, and without the full wave of support from home, things can get tricky.
Life with a new stepchild isn't always going to be easy, but it's not necessarily going to be hard either. You don't need to stay goodbye to life as you know it just because you have a bonus child(ren). Life's going to be how you make it. You have to be adaptable and make changes when they're needed. Kids need support and love and guidance; they need a relationship with you in order to make everything comfortable at home. You now have an extra person to be liable for; someone who needs you for shelter, food, and care. Take this seriously and realize you're molding your stepchild into an upcoming adult one day.
This can be said for all parents, not just stepparents. You need to learn when to step in and handle the situation and step back to let their mother take control. Once you become more familiar with your stepchild, you'll learn what areas they need to work on and how you can help them. You'll also learn where you're out of depth and need your partner to step in and handle the situation in a better way.
Depending on your partner's situation and why they're a solo mother, they're now relying on you for some help. Whether that's as a driver, financially, or in a full-parenting role, your partner needs you just as much as your stepchild does.
It is not always being biologically related that counts, it is who was there for the children" one mom told Reddit. There's a lot of truth to this; just because you are biologically family doesn't mean you know how to parent or are necessarily a good parent. Likewise, just because you don't have the same genetics doesn't mean you don't know how to parent. She continues saying "Mom would not be marrying you if you were not already a good dad. If you have questions, communicate with mom. Communication between the two of you is key. Try not to worry, if she has faith in you then you are good."