Many stepparents have a difficult time defining their role, and often spouses have different expectations from their partner! When the two clash, there is usually an argument, or we could call it a "difference of opinion!", depending on your perspective! Whose "perspective" takes precedent? Perhaps the following will help you define your stepparenting role and alleviate some of those "differences of opinion" occurring at your house!
1. The Effective Stepparent realizes it is natural to feel closer to biological children. Also works with partner to reduce jealousy and competition for time and attention with one another's children.
2. If you are a stepparent with no biological children, you and partner must agree on some basic house rules for the children. We're not talking 99 house rules here, folks. Agreement on respect, household responsibilities for kids, curfews, etc. will go a long ways to reduce conflict between adults and provide consistency got children.
3. The Effective Stepparent allows time for relationships to develop, often taking 5 to 7 years!!!!! (It's not forever!!!) Getting to know your stepchildren is a process, not a "blender" of instantaneous liking and loving one another.
4. Focus on the process of developing the stepfamily into a cohesive family instead of the expectation that you're going to be "one big happy family" in 60 days! This process means partners will have to provide opportunities for the stepfamily to feel connected.
5. The Effective Stepparent also allows expression of emotions and feelings from each stepfamily member. Works on not taking personally some of the negative feelings from stepchildren. However, "I hate you!" kinds of comments are way over the edge of negativity and need to be discussed with partner.
6. The Effective Stepparent understands that grief and loss are part of these emotions and life experiences. It's important to feel empathy, not sympathy, when children express these feelings. Just listening to a steppchild's feelings does not mean "solving" the problem......validating the steppchild is important in the process of connection.
7. The Effective stepparent provides strength and encouragement to partner, stepchildren and bio-children (if there are any). Your attitude will help all the children in family to move on through pain, grief, anger, loss and resentment.
8. The Effective stepparent permits children to belong to two families; not talking negatively about the other parent or stepparent. Helps children adjust to moving back and forth from mom's house to dad's house, which will help bio and stepchildren feel loved and secure at both homes.
9. Take a stepfamily class through the Center For Stepfamily Development, read a few books on stepparenting, join a stepfamily support group, or come to counseling at the Center. Information, education and support are key elements to successful stepfamilies.
10. The Effective Stepparent makes time for partner by going on an occasional date, having fun together and taking a break from kids to renew sense of couple spirit.