In the family sense, anything with the prefixed title of “step” conjures of images of Cinderella’s evil stepmother favoring her own children with much love, and yet committing her life to making Cinderella, her stepdaughter’s life to misery. Hopefully time and understanding over the years has squashed that notion of “evil” and “favoritism” where “step’s” are concerned and the joining of family has squashed such stereotypes.
There is a definite uncertainty from both sides of the spectrum when dealing with the step mother/father role and the stepchildren. If a divorce is not amicable and the parents are left with bitter feelings towards each other, whether it is intentional or not, the children pick up on that and can instantly feel a sense of disdain for any “new” parent making their appearance in the family. The best thing that bitter exes can do, and should do, is resolve any anger or hostility for the time that they are with their children together or apart. Having worked with kids, I know exactly how keen and impressionable they are, many of my kids would not hesitate in telling me how much their mommies and daddies fight, what was said, and how they felt. That should be first and foremost, if you are divorcing, be absolutely certain you show the child they are loved and will always be loved by the two of you.
Okay, so the divorce is settled and now the new blended family begins. According to Dennis Rainey in an article he wrote for FamilyLife.com, he says, “though stepfamilies may look like traditional nuclear families on the outside, the dynamics on the inside are very different. Two completely unique family cultures, two completely different sets of traditions, two completely different ways of dealing with issues must now reach happy (or at least peaceful) coexistence in one family.”
In order for this to be achieved, it seems a clear and definite meeting of the minds, and family, needs to take place, that is, because according to Rainey, “roles for everyone are jumbled and confusedÃ¢Â?Â¦responsibilities are not clear cut as they usually are in a traditional family.” For example, a father getting married should sit down with his children and ex wife to explain reasonably who and what it is that is now changing in their lives. The father should be confident in his continuing love for the children and the mother should be reassuring that the stepmother is not a bad thing, and they are to respect her. Now, this is a lot to ask of anybody, but perhaps harder of children who are used to their core family, but as long as both parents are consistent and encouraging, the transition can be slated effortlessly.
For the stepparent, the best way to complete the transition is to respectfully give the child the power in setting the pace of the new relationship between the two of you. Do not rush the bond or the child could deflect and ultimately cause conflict. And if there is ever conflict between you and the stepchild, be sure to understand that the primary parent is the disciplinarian and you are the support system in that.
Little things that can be down for a new relationship between step parent and stepchild is to take an interest in the child life, hobbies, activities, and to actually spend quality time with the child doing things they love, and perhaps even show them what it is you enjoy.
Ultimately if you have a strong foundation in your new marriage, that can straightforwardly shift to easing the child to be a part of that foundation to grow off of and into developing a relationship with you.