Becoming A Stepparent – What Role Should You Play?

Becoming A StepparentThere’s no denying that being a stepparent can be one of the most challenging roles one may ever assume in their adult life. It can be an on-going test, depending on how you understand and evolve into the role. Some of the most common questions one may come across are:

  • In what manner should I address the children?
  • How much authority do I have?
  • How can I deal with the pain, reservations, anger, jealousy or other sensitive emotions of my spouse’s children?
  • How do I relate to, or communicate with the children’s other biological parent?

Working with families and children and providing counseling for divorced parents, I understand the plethora of feelings, and the overwhelming nature of the scenario. As a stepparent, here are some things that you should keep in mind that will help better define your role:

Do Not Develop Unrealistic Expectations

Relationships are built over time, and thus forming unrealistic expectations regarding the level of intimacy and closeness a step-parent may feel toward a child could result in disappointment and anger. You should understand that the child may feel that, by forming an alliance with you, they may be ‘betraying’ their other biological parent. Take your time with this, allowing ample time for the relationship to foster.

Start Slow And Build A Rapport

If a stepparent is readily tossed into the role of parenting, the risks of the children developing reservations and anger could pose a serious danger. Begin the relationship as a caring individual and mentor. Take some time to foster a unique relationship with your stepchildren, unlike the one with the biological parents. This will communicate that you’re not attempting to ‘replace’ anyone. Kids can tell the difference between genuine care and insincerity. So, take time and invest in a deeper, more meaningful relationship.

Your Stepchild & You – the Dynamics

You should understand that your role in the child’s life is significantly different from that of the biological parent. Discourage the habit of the child referring to you as “mom” or “dad”, or any other variations of the words. If you prefer not to be called by your first name, come up with an alternative, affectionate nickname or title that the kids could call you. Moreover, if the biological parent reprimands the child, do not interfere.

Mutually Agreeing With Your Spouse Regarding the Disciplinary Standards of the Children

For any stepparent, disciplining their step-children may be fraught with dangers of resentment and anger. Furthermore, as the kids get older, it becomes more challenging for the step-parent to take active part in the disciplinary aspect. Both, biological parents and their spouse must set goals, rules, standards that the children must follow. Discuss with your partner and agree upon a role for you to play regarding discipline/care giving of the children so that you don’t inadvertently step on any toes.

Actively Support the Child’s Relationships With the Biological Parents

Facilitate a healthy relationship with the other biological parent. If you are currently playing the role of a step-mother, invest some effort to encourage and nurture the relationship between the child and his or her biological mother. This will assist in overcoming any reservations from both your spouse’s ex and his children. Put internal envy and reservations aside, and commit to this. It will certainly have positive impacts in the long-term! Encourage your spouse to spend quality time with the kids alone as well – especially if he or she is not the primary caretaker.

If you’re looking for the best parenting website and consultation services to help your family, then get in touch with Triangle Parenting Solutions. We offer consultation, parenting coordinator services, and individual and family therapy to help you move forward, keeping you and your children’s best interest at heart.

Feel free to contact Jennifer Viemont, LCSW. Call at, 919-539-4840 or email, [email protected]