Being a stepparent is tough and, I would imagine, different for everyone. But so is being a biological parent. There are good times and ones that are challenging and, whenever feelings of love and family bonds are involved, serious emotions get tangled up in the mix too.
Still, there are ways that friends, families and spouses can help to make the transition and vibe a whole lot better. These can be done whether or not the biological parent is still in the picture.
- Give her time – she fell in love with their dad, and then learnt to love his children. Chances are that she would’ve married him even if he hadn’t had kids of his own. So, give her some time to cultivate those feelings of love and attachment to her new family, rather than expecting her to feel maternal loyalty right off the cuff. The children will also need some time to get used to her, so it is best not to force anything.
- Be positive – encourage her and help her to feel upbuilt, rather than always offering advice on how to improve her parenting skills. She is going to have to create her own way of parenting anyway, so respect that and commend her for the things she is doing right.
- Give her some time out – this applies particularly to the husband and father. She’s getting used to a whole new role and may feel quite overwhelmed sometimes. Give her a break, even spoiling her from time to time with a hot bubble bath and a glass of wine, or a romantic meal out.
- Support her in front of her stepchildren – in most matters, it will be better to support her instructions, discipline, requests and efforts. Disagreeing with her in front of the children will only cause friction and disunity, and will teach them not to take her too seriously. This is almost definitely going to cause far bigger problems down the line. If there is something with which you (as the spouse or a family member) cannot agree, speak to her privately and respectfully about it.
- Reserve your judgement – are you a parent? Is it easy? Now, imagine trying to do all the same things without that biological bond. Imagine trying to do it under the watchful eye of everyone who loves his children and has a history with his family before the stepmom arrived on the scene. Use your energies to help her rather than hailing down hurtful words and opinions.
While being a stepmom has added challenges, there are so many rewards too. You may find that you are able to have an even closer relationship with your stepchildren because they feel less pressure than they do with their bio parents. And remember: