How to Deal with Step Children

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Stepparenting is not always full of smiles and laughs. The reality of the situation is that there are going to be many hills to climb and obstacles to cross as everyone adjusts to the new blended family. According to the charity Parentline Plus, stepfamilies have higher levels of anger, depression and stress. However, some stepfamilies are able to exist as a cohesive unit with plenty of love and support due to some effort from all members of the family.

  • Establish some ground rules with your spouse for the family, and sit down with your stepchildren to discuss them. Let everyone know what is expected from them so that there isn't any question about what types of behavior are acceptable. Let your stepchildren know that even though you aren't their biological parent, they do need to be respectful. Leave the role of primary authority figure and disciplinarian in your spouse's hands for a while to reduce the chances of alienation from the start.

  • Allow the children to set the pace for how fast or slow the relationship develops. Don't force affection or come on too strong right away. It might seem like you are being rejected repeatedly, despite your best efforts, but give the relationship time to form. You aren't there to replace their biological parent, but you are a new addition and have the potential to be a positive adult figure in their lives.

  • Encourage the children to express their feelings openly, without worrying about receiving a negative reaction. Children often feel powerless when their parent marries someone else, and they need to know that their voice matters in the family. If a child can't express how he feels, he might act out behaviorally by throwing tantrums or being disrespectful.

  • Create new family traditions and rituals to encourage bonding time. Have a movie night or play board games once a week as a family. Require that everyone has to eat dinner at the table to encourage conversation and frequent interaction. This helps the relationships develop and assists with making the family a cohesive unit.

  • Respect the children's other biological parent. Avoid criticizing her in any way while around your stepchildren. Hearing negative things about their other parent might make them feel conflicted, which could result in conflict in the house and make parenting more difficult. If possible and the circumstances allow it, try to develop a civil relationship with the child's other parent.

References

  • Photo Credit David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images
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