Being MUM to stepchildren
All relationships are very different and don’t follow the same patterns. Every stage must be approached cautiously and slowly and the greatest virtues you must show are kindness, understanding and most of all, patience. The key point to remember is that as the step-parent, you are the outsider. The biological family that you have joined has shared history, memories and experiences by the bucketful – and you will never be part of these. In time, you too will be creating many happy experiences and memories with your stepchildren, but before you all reach that stage, there is a great deal of compromising to be done.
Understanding your roleBlending two families or marrying someone with children is certainly going to present challenges and your role in the new family, is one that you must give plenty of thought. Sometimes, it is true, that the new family members all get on really well and life goes smoothly, but more often than not there are plenty of bumpy stretches that need to be negotiated! You will certainly understand what your new responsibilities are with regards to the day-to-day running of the house, but what sort of relationship would you like with your stepchildren – what type of relationship does your husband envisage you having? This is definitely an important question to ask and don’t be surprised if your partner has differing views to you!
and the emotions involved….There is no magic guide to tell you the easy way create your ‘new family’, but it is important – especially in the early days – that you try to understand how your stepchildren feel about the situation.
If the children’s mother is deceased, they could still be in shock and mourning her loss. If their birth parents have divorced, they may still be grieving and your arrival on the scene will have put an end to the secret hope that they had that their parents would get back together. This hope is not limited to young children, even young adults can hold onto the hope for many years. Their natural response is to feel sad, angry and confused and you may well not get the warmest reception.
Time is important to stepchildren.It is best if you and your new partner do not rush things and the longer you have been together as a couple, the better. Your stepchildren need plenty of time to grow comfortable with your arrival in their father’s life and it is good if you can spend plenty of time with them, learning a little about them before you join the family. If you have your own children, it is really vital that both sets of children can have time together and grow comfortable in each other’s company.
Another key point is the type of relationship that your partner has with his ‘ex’. If they communicate easily and have maintained to retain their friendship, this will make life much easier for you. Children do not handle negativity between parents well. It is essential that you NEVER criticise their biological mum, whatever the circumstances because you will live to regret it – keep your thoughts to yourself. If the children’s mother has passed away, always show her the utmost respect when you talk about her.
Begin your relationship in first gear.It is only natural that you would like to have a close loving relationship with your new stepchildren right away, but it is not a good idea to rush things and it is far better to take your time and let the bond between you all form naturally. It is highly likely that your stepchild will not warm to you straight away – and especially not your children. Viewing life standing in their shoes, their parent has introduced a new ‘step mum’ who they don’t really know and the dynamics of the family have been blown apart by the arrival of HER children! Your stepchild will be feeling very unsure and extremely insecure.
Be friendly (but not over friendly) and reassuring towards your stepchildren and most of all, sincere. If your children are in the ‘new family’ be totally fair at all times and never biased towards your own children. Show your stepchildren that you are reliable and happy to prepare their school uniform for them or test them on their spellings. If you say you are going to do something for them, remember to do it and do it well. In time, your relationship with your stepchildren should start to grow and it will probably be a very different one to the relationship they have with their biological parents – which is a good thing!
Be consistent in what you expect from your stepchildren. Praise easily, but don’t reward with toys and sweets. Remember the saying ‘you can’t buy love’.
Set fair house rules and be consistent in applying them. Delegate small household chores fairly for younger children and be firm with teenagers, lay down the ground rules and keep to them. Let teenagers invite friends home as they will enjoy and appreciate this.
Punishments must fit the crime! Do not favour your children over stepchildren, be absolutely fair at all times.
Create new memories together. This can be cycle rides, trying a new sport or a weekly board game championship. Your stepchildren will love them and it is certainly a fun way to start the bonding process.
If your stepchildren are regularly visited by their biological mum, be as pleasant as possible to her. If they visit her in her house, do not fire questions at them when they return so you can find out what is going on in her home – if they feel comfortable, children love to talk and they will soon reveal all the information you were seeking without you saying a word!
Keep talking with your partner! Life can get hectic with stepchildren, so it is good to allocate some time for just you and your partner to share a drink together, say on a Friday evening when work has finished. When the children are not around, discuss them and their lives to ensure you are both happy with how things are settling down and also share opinions on events – especially if you have not been a parent before.
Do your homework! If you are a new step mum and have not had children of your own, don’t worry! Spend some time online to find the answers to your questions and also plenty of great inspirations about things to do with your stepchildren for weekends and holidays.
Relax! Take each day as it comes and slowly and surely you will be rewarded with fun and laughter from your stepchildren which shows they have accepted you!