When you’re in a marriage where stepchildren are involved, the relationship takes on a new dynamic. There are not only more people to consider, but also more relationships and situations to deal with on a daily basis. While this may cause stress, it doesn’t have to if you’re prepared and know how to handle certain situations.
Here are some stepfamily traps that often come up and tips to avoid them from happening in your home.
Letting your child disrespect your partner (who is not the parent)
Just because your partner is not the biological parent of your child doesn’t mean your child doesn’t have to show respect. Explain to your child that just as they want to be treated with respect, so does your partner. Respect goes a long way on both sides.
Disciplining your stepchild
Discipline is a slippery slope because while your children need to follow rules, every family has different opinions when it comes to discipline by a stepparent. Usually, the biological parent is left to do the disciplining. If a stepparent crosses boundaries too early, they run the risk of ruining a relationship before it even gets off the ground and being resented by the stepchild. Having an open discussion about what’s expected from you as a stepparent when it comes to discipline will help to avoid any awkward situations. The biological parent should also explain the rules clearly to their child so they understand that mom or dad is on board.
Trying to act like the mother (or father)
Regardless of whether your partner separated due to divorce or death, you should never try to take the place of the other parent. What you can do instead is to realize that you will still have an important role in the child’s life without trying to act like the mother or father. Don’t insist they call you “mom” or “dad” either. This will lead them to resent you. Rather, let them do things at their own pace. If they decide to call you by that name down the road, it will be their choice.
Getting involved in arguments between your stepchild and your spouse
As a stepparent, you want to avoid getting in the middle of arguments between your stepchild and spouse. If you side with your partner, your stepchild will feel as though you’re ganging upon him. If you side with the child, your partner may also feel the same way and may think you are trying to gain points with their child. Either situation is one you don’t want to be in. Sit back and let them work things out. Everyone will be better for it in the long run.
Not discussing family ground rules with your spouse
Discussing ground rules with your spouse can help you to avoid future arguments. Talk about how the house will operate, who is responsible for what, and what is regarded as “family time” and what is “couple time”. While this may sound business-like and not like a discussion you would have with a partner, these rules are important to layout and discuss. Often, each partner will have a set of rules in mind but will never verbalize them. So, when things don’t go the way they envisioned, they get angry. Having a clear picture of what is expected can help clear up any miscommunication before it starts.
Remember, becoming a stepfamily will come with its issues, but if you keep the lines of communication open you can become a strong family that respects and cares for one another and has fun!