Tips for Becoming a Stepparent: Effective Communication and Defining Consequences are Key

Becoming a stepparent or even a “fake” stepparent (domestic partnerships) is terrifying. These are not your children and in some ways that makes you feel more responsible for their well-being. However with a bit of patience and good communication between everyone becoming a stepparent can be rewarding. I recently found myself in a blended family and here are some of the things we ran across.

Beginning Strategies

Before even moving in together we came up with a list of chores, rules and other expectations. We each drew up our own list and then sat down together and worked on a balance that could be agreed on. Once this was done we created a chart for each child so they could see what was expected of them. The key here was that each child had an individual chart and it was put where they could see it easily as a reminder of what was accomplished and what needed to be done. Although the initial chart took time it was a lifesaver when even I would forget whose week it was to clean the bathroom or take out the trash.

Discipline

One huge issue is how to deal with disciplining the other person’s child. As a stepparent you don’t want to over do it and you definitely don’t want to have no discipline power either. This was another thing we discussed before moving in together. Since I would be the one home most of the time this was more of an issue for me. For things that we knew would most likely come up we decided on set consequences that made it easy for either of us to deal with any discipline issue immediately without having to consult the other partner but for those occasions that the kids surprised one of us with off the wall situations we agreed that the person there would deal with it by giving a mild consequence leaving time to discuss a more appropriate one together.

As a stepparent it is hard at times to dole out any consequence �you really hate to be the bad guy�but you have to stick to your guns and do not ever go back on a consequence. I have however, allowed them at times to work toward lessoning the consequence depending on what it was for.

From fun friend to wicked stepparent

I found myself in a strange spot once we all moved in together. I went from that fun friend that his kids had a blast with during visits to this evil, mean, wicked, nasty stepparent who told them to clean their room and do their homework every day and worst of all took more of their father’s time away from them. I hated it as much as they did and found that alone was creating a bit of stubborn behavior from his children.

We decided to add in a little reward system. We already had set out one night a week that was specifically family night..something fun together and on our weekends with them (every other weekend they went to their respective other parents home for visitations) we would spend one day with our own children and the other as a family. Now we added in a special night. We used the chart as a guide and if all or most of the expectations, including behavior ones, were met the child earned a small treat of their choice with their parent. For example if my son made it for the week with no teacher calls/comments he could choose either me taking him to a local skatepark, going to dinner, or something similar. If they did well for the entire month we did something larger. In between if the behaviors toward me were going well I would take each of his children out just them and myself for a bit. He would do the same with my children.

This worked very well. The kids were given special time with their own parent and stepparent and we all did things together on a very regular basis. It took some of the wicked away.

None of it has to be expensive or even cost a thing. On family nights we watch movies together or play games. On weekends we drive to the beach, park or even just spend some time at home doing things. You choose what is best for your budget, but making the time to do things with each child individually and as a family is very important.

The key to all of this is communication and yes, some trial and error. Each family is going to be different but communication, time and patience all combined will help make things much smoother and make you less of the wicked stepparent.

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