Being a step parent is challenging. And also the sun is hot and the ocean is wet and all other things that are true beyond words. If you’re lucky, you never have to hear your step child yell, “You can’t tell me what to do!” “You’re not my father/mother!” It can be very difficult for a child to learn to take direction from a new parental figure and this can lead to great stress within the home. It can also be difficult for a stepparent to learn how to interact with a child in ways that are firm and consistent, but also kind, accepting and loving. Kids have a way of seeing through people so a step parent’s efforts must be genuine or the child will resist and possibly rebel.
And then there is the challenge of co-parenting with the biological parent. Sometimes the biological parent is resistant to the stepparent taking too much of a role in areas such as discipline, education and emotional well-being. This can lead to hurt feelings and become a major source of conflict within the relationship if both parents are not flexible and reasonable. The step parent must respect the boundaries established by the biological parent, and the biological parent must respect the need of the step parent to be involved in decisions related to the child. This delicate balance can only be established and maintained through kind and patient communication.
Step parents are important. We become important figures in our step children’s, and our partners’ lives and it is up to us to respect both of those roles. We must understand that we are not, and never will be, that child’s biological parent but we are a parent. Our feelings cannot be hurt by the boundaries, roles and influence of the biological parents. We should strive to fit into the parenting system rather than to change the system entirely. Ask for what you need but be flexible and understanding. And if, like me, you are blessed with a great step child and an amazing partner, be grateful and let them know how much you appreciate being a part of their system. Because, did I mention that being a step parent can be challenging?