It would seem that Snow White and Cinderella’s “evil stepmothers” ruined things for the rest of us. Stereotypically, all stepmothers are seen as evil, and are out to ruin children’s lives. It’s about time we started putting an end to this stereotype and allow stepmothers to be seen in a much better light.
Raising a stepchild never has been and never will be easy; it has even more challenges than raising your own child. This can be incredibly overwhelming for some, and not knowing how to approach the child can make you seem distant and cold instead of just unsure. Children are incredibly impressionable and they see and hear more than we think they do. When it comes to raising a stepchild, realize that the child is going through a lot and that his feelings must be put before your own. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged; try and see things from the child’s point of view and keep in mind some of the helpful tips below.
Consider the Child First
When remarrying, couples are so excited and tied up in their own plans and the prospect of their new life together, that they forget that it may not be quite that easy for the children involved. Parents often think that just because they love their new partner, their children will too. Young children tend to be very confused since they don’t understand the situation; they always thought that they lived in one house with mommy and daddy and suddenly they have two houses and lots of new people. Trying to explain why this is to a toddler can be an impossible task; you need let your child explain to you how he or she is feeling. This means really paying attention to your child since communicating their feelings may not always happen in words. Watch your child’s behavior closely and try to understand the meaning behind it.
While a new marriage is exciting, remember not to get so wrapped up in it that you forget that your child may not be quite so excited. Make special time for all of the children involved, make sure they know that they are still what are most important, and allow them to freely express their feelings and concerns. Children are people too, and their lives in this new family need to be considered above all else.
Communicate With Your Partner
One of the biggest problems that arise when raising a stepchild is that issues with the children begin to come between the partners. Having different views on privileges, discipline, or anything else can mean trouble for your relationship and even more difficulty with the children.
In order for your new family to work, you and your partner have to be a team; this is the case in any relationship but becomes truly important for step families. Before even considering bringing the children into the relationship, you must have clear views and common goals and truly understand each other as parents. If the step parent is not allowed to discipline the child the same way the biological parent would, the home quickly becomes a battlefield. If the children clearly see that you are united, they will truly start to settle into the arrangement as a new family, and your relationship will not be jeopardized either.
Get Rid of Labels
If children are truly going to feel that they are a part of a brand new family, they cannot have labels attached to them. “His daughter,” “her son;” you are one family, and the children should simply be, “ours.” Even the phrase, “I love them as if they were my own,” does not need to exist; you created a new family and now those children are your own. Constantly applying, “yours, mine, and ours,” labels only creates further division within the family.
Look at any situation you can think of; once people have been “labeled,” they stick with the people with a similar label. This is true in schools, offices, social gatherings, and will be true in your own home as well if you don’t do away with it completely. Once again, children are people, they are not one of the objects you happened to win during the divorce; they do not get to be put inside of a labeled box.
Allow for Adjustment
Becoming part of a step family isn’t easy for anyone, but especially for a child who doesn’t fully understand what is happening. Trying to force a child to adjust in the way that you think they should will only make the transition that much more difficult for everyone. Give the child as much time as he needs. He will come out of his shell when he is ready, and it’s unfair to expect him to adjust right away just because you think your new partner is amazing.
Don’t force your child to view your new partner as a parent right away, and certainly don’t force them to call them “mom” or “dad.” Your child only knows one mom and dad, and it will take time for them to accept this new person. Let your child know that you know this is not easy, and that you do not expect them to accept this new person as any sort of replacement. The biggest adjustment your child will need to make is knowing that it’s alright to talk about their feelings with everyone involved. They need to know that they can communicate with both biological parents as well as their step parent without feeling like they are going to hurt someone’s feelings.
Remember That You Are the Adult
The only way your child is going to ease into such a big transition is if they see that you are doing it. You are the adult in the scenario and it is up to you to put your feelings about your ex aside and consider your child. Never talk badly about your ex-partner, and never compare your ex to your new partner. Not only does this just create more confusion for your child, it will make him feel as if he is in the middle of a battle instead of part of two new happy families.