It is important that it takes time, effort and a great deal of patience to blend two families. Just because the adults have gone through a marriage ceremony or feel committed to each other, it does not automatically blend personalities, experiences and expectations. Children in step families have a number of emotions that come into play when a non-parent suddenly enters the picture.
Life during the courtship period is frequently unrealistic as well as confusing. Daily life takes teamwork and cooperation to make a house a home. You may not be the natural Daddy or the Daddy they wanted, but you do deserve respect. Respect is earned and does not come automatically.
Step families Are Special
Parenting is hard enough in the first place and children love to test the limits of our patience and skills. Please remember that the children did not ask to be in this position and are understandably concerned and trying to work out the relationships in their own minds.
The child may have been in a position where the mother's boyfriend gave him treats or special attention in order to win the affections of both mother and child. Now, in a day-to-day experience it takes a lot of give and take to make the family work, and rewards are not forthcoming for just being there. Generally speaking, the premarital adult-child relationships may be confusing for mature adults as well as children.
Regular Family Meetings
The most successful families I have worked with have always had a regular family meeting or round-table weekly. This enables all members of the blended family to discuss issues, set goals and clarify situations. These meetings, which allow both parents and children to participate and become empowered. Held on a weekly basis, many small problems can be solved before they become large ones.
Discussing problems and expectations on a regular basis allows everyone to feel part of the team. Make sure that you and your spouse are united on goals for the family and that you show respect and kindness to each other and the children. A good parenting plan includes all responsible adults.
You Are Not My Daddy
One of the main issues of step parenting is to do your level best to respect and honor the relationship the child has with the biological parent, but still offering love and attention. Talk about the biological parent in positive or neutral terms. If you speak negatively about the parent, the child will feel defensive, guilty and as if he too was being judged harshly.
If the biological or "real daddy" was negligent or a poor parent, your job is to empathize with the child. As you demonstrate that you are going to be a permanent, but loving part of the child's life, there will be less and less power struggles.
Judy is a parent educator, family relationship coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. Formerly a PBS-Ready to learn consultant, she still works with Head Start organizations and child care resource centers on an international basis.
Submitted by: Judy H. Wright *
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