50 Things to Know About Being a Stepparent

If one parent has a child or children that are unrelated to the other parent, then a stepfamily (or blended family/bonus family) is the result of this. The most common arrangement is a mother-stepfather relationship, because in most cases mothers retain custody of their children. Nowadays, stepfamilies are becoming the norm rather than the exception in our society because divorce and remarriage rates have been on the rise. It is said that one-third of all children will become a member of a stepfamily before turning eighteen, so how many children will be part of a stepfamily when they reach that age? 

Stepfamilies are often born out of conflict, loss, and a newfound commitment, as well as an often traumatic transition that occurs along the way. As such, they need to adjust to many changes in their lives. Stepfamilies are able to work out their differences and live together successfully most of the time. As a result, you have to plan carefully, openly discuss your feelings, have a positive attitude, and to have a lot of patience and mutual respect. 

Stepfamilies don’t have to be the troubled family of Cinderella, nor do they have to be the perfect family like that of The Brady Bunch. It should be noted that neither of these two scenarios are the whole picture of a stepfamily. The purpose of this book is to provide you with 50 tips on how to be a good stepparent. You can’t expect perfection right from the start, it won’t happen right away. Just be patient with yourself, your spouse, and your children, and you will soon see that everything works out as it should. 

1.  Don’t be too aggressive when you make your first move. 

There can be a temptation to force a bond that doesn’t exist naturally when you are a new member of a “ready-made” family. The bond is not going to be instantaneous. It is going to take time and patience. Give your stepchild room to grow to love you rather than pushing them. 

2.  Ensure that your new spouse and his or her ex-spouse are on the same page. 

We hope you will be able to discuss together how you plan to reward and punish, assign chores and allowances, set bedtimes and assign homework together. You should be able to come to an understanding of what is going to be expected of the kids in both houses. In this way, the kids know what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not acceptable. 

3.  Make sure to encourage your stepkids to spend time with BOTH of their biological parents one-on-one. 

Your role as a stepparent is to support the bonding between your stepkid and his/her biological parents. There is no need to worry about losing your position. There is no competition between who the child loves the most- please don’t make it into one. 

4.  Make it a habit to hold weekly meetings with your family members. 

Discuss how things are going once a week on a weekly basis. The kids should be given an opportunity to express themselves- what they like or don’t like- how they feel about it. Do not get into an argument if they have not accepted the situation or are still unwilling to accept it. 

5. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. 

Let your new family grow at its own pace and give it the time it needs to become the family it wants to be. Please do not force the growing process to follow the path you believe it needs to follow. We are all born with a different set of dynamics in our family, so let yours find its own. 

6. Never go over the line of what you are allowed to do. 

As a stepfather, it can sometimes be tempting to over-discipline your stepchildren so as to gain respect from them. During the first year of the child’s life, you ought to defer to the biological parent for all discipline. You will more easily gain their respect and affection if you have spent time earning their affection first. If you have spent time over-disciplining them, then you will have a much better chance of being listened to. 

7. It is possible that you will hear, “You aren’t my real parent” at some point during the process of being adopted.

If a child says the above things, or if they are doing something similar, do not forget that they are trying to take away power from you by doing so. Make sure you’re prepared to respond appropriately so that you can say, “You’re right, I’m not.”. Just because I’m your stepparent doesn’t mean I feel less loved or cared for by you. 

8. You should schedule daily activities that you and your stepchild can do on your own. 

Make an effort to do something that you can do together, on one-to-one basis. By taking walks with your partner, or by taking an art class with them, you can bond as you spend time together. It is important that you and your stepkids have a little one-on-one time at least once a month. 

9. Don’t be offended by what is said. 

Your stepchildren need to work through all these emotions and feelings that are attached to the divorce of their parents. In many cases, children hold out hope that their parents will get back together at some point in the future. When you come into their lives, that hope is gone. 

10. Develop new family traditions that you can pass on to your children. 

Holidays and special occasions are special occasions for families to celebrate in their own special way. I suggest that you spend some time creating new family traditions that you can all do together. It will help you to feel connected and more connected to your family members. 

11. Discuss the differences between you and your partner. 

The point is not to argue where you are “right” or where you are “wrong”. It is important to take the time to listen to the opinions of others and to discuss them. 

12. Share your family’s past with your children and grandchildren. 

I wonder if you have any memories of your stepkids’ biological families that you would like to share. It would be nice to hear what they think. Getting to know each other and understanding each other better will help you both a lot. 

13. Develop a strong bond between the two of you. 

You will be able to provide for the needs of your children to a greater extent if you and your spouse have a good relationship with each other. It gives the impression that you are working together as a team, and it shows the kids that you support each other.  It is also good for the biological parent to have a good relationship with their kids because they will not feel “caught in between” between their kids and their spouse, which is something they frequently feel. 

14. Contact between adults should be established directly. 

The adults should work together to figure out the schedule, and the children should contribute to it, but not through them.

15. Provide a space where children can be themselves. 

There is no way for a child to feel like they belong if he or she does not have their own drawer, desk, or bed. If you can, make sure that they have their own space. Even a shelf that they were able to dedicate to themselves can give them the feeling that they are part of the house. 

16. Ensure that you spend time communicating with others. 

To maintain harmony in a family, communication is essential. Finding someone who understands stepfamily life (a minister, a counselor, etc) who can help you may be the best option if you keep hitting brick walls when you try to communicate. 

17. Spend time together experiencing “real life.”. 

Having children is a privilege that can make you feel tempted to make things fun, especially if you are not the primary custodial parent. As I mentioned earlier, it is important that you allow everyone to get used to “real life” and understand that life will not always be an event. 

18. Respect for each other is of the utmost importance in any kind of relationship. 

Despite what some may think, there is no rule that says children can only show respect for adults. It is important that both adults and children respect each other. Unlike the proverbial ‘older’ person, a family member is not considered older than anyone else because a family member is one who you are now considered part of. 

19. Be compassionate toward each individual’s development. 

There are several different stages of development that children go through when they’re a part of a stepfamily (example: pre-k versus preteens). The acceptance of the new family is also going to be different for everyone depending on their stage of life. Take the time to understand and honor these differences. 

20. Acknowledge that silence is a part of life. 

Whenever your stepkids are around, it is okay to be quiet when they are around, as long as you respect them. This is not an excuse to be idle and talk incessantly. It is just a matter of acclimating yourself to your stepkids’ presence. I think the best way to open up to them and have a casual chat with them would be to get them to open up to you. The best way to open up to them is to let them open up to you on their own. 

21. Be respectful of others’ privacy. 

You should respect the wishes of your stepchildren if they want to be left alone. Tell them that you will always be there for them even if they do not want to talk to you. Don’t get upset if they are not interested in talking to you. 

22. Identify the family rules that need to be followed. 

Decide upon family rules and discuss them with your family members. Consider not just the needs of each individual, but also the needs of the entire family. Find a solution that works for both the individual and the entire family. It is a good idea to put up some rules and to post them so that it is expected to be followed. This will reduce the difficulty of the stepparent having to act as enforcer when the biological parent is not present.  

23. Become flexible as much as you can. 

Having the ability to be flexible is imperative and allowing everyone to make their own decisions is also essential. Assure everyone of your support, but also let them make their own decisions. Don’t feel that you must win every battle in the fight for freedom. Many of these battles wouldn’t be worth the fight at all.  

24. Never panic if you are in an awkward situation. 

It is highly likely that you will be addressed by the name of your ex. I don’t think it matters too much to you just because they have been a part of your life for so long. It’s probably awkward to make any comments about the episode if you don’t know the whole story. It’s ok to let that slide. 

25. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself. 

In the present context, therefore, this is not meant to say to be selfish and focus on your own needs. I would just suggest you to take some time that you need to take a few deep breaths and do whatever it takes to help you get back on track. You should always get support when you need it, especially when you are stepparenting (and parenting in general)- both of these roles can be thankless. 

26. You should not light a fire that you cannot extinguish. 

Don’t be a part of the problem, but rather a part of the solution. Whenever you signed the marriage contract, you were signing on to support your spouse in everything and not create problems for them. In addition, you’re causing problems by fueling the flames to keep them fighting and not considering reconciliation so that there will never be a chance to reconcile. You shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place if you’re so worried about them getting back together. 

27. You should be able to ask both your biological parents for their opinions on the situation. 

It is important to ask for help from the other biological parent if you are ever unsure of how to handle a situation. The reality of the matter is that many people believe by doing so, they are in some way giving their ex-partner power over them. In fact, by doing so you will be able to earn their respect- thus being able to ask for their help in the future. 

28. Provide the kids with a sense of security and stability. 

In the family, children expect that their opinions will be valued and that they will feel safe. Divorce often causes those involved to feel uncertain, mistrustful, and scared because of the circumstances of the divorce. It is a good idea to give them lots of reassurance and not to require them to make too many changes at once. 

29. Be careful not to disparage the other biological parent. 

In naming their other parent in a bad way, you are making the kids feel as if they have to choose between you and their other parent. Explain to them that any talk they have about their other parent is okay when you are present. 

30. Let’s use creativity to embrace the stepsiblings. 

It might be a good idea to publish a “suggestion box” or some other time that the stepsiblings can get together. As a result, they will have a chance to know one another better. An all-encompassing, fun and creative solution is always the best choice when you want to get the whole family involved. 

31. Support children from two different households who are living separately from one another. 

It can be very difficult for a child to move back and forth between households from time to time. While they are at the house of their other parent, they often worry that they are going to miss out on the fun they can have with their stepsiblings. Ensure the kids are doing well by checking in on them frequently – don’t assume that everything is fine. 

32. Do not argue in front of your children when you are speaking with your spouse. 

There is a lot of importance here not just in stepfamily situations, but also in any family situation. Regardless of how things are going between you, the children need to see you united. It is important that you discuss all disagreements behind closed doors if there is any disagreement between you. 

33. Be able to laugh at yourself. 

You may be feeling highly emotional right now. Don’t allow little things to upset you. Keep your spirit up and learn to laugh at what happens. “Due to the nature of the world, everything comes to an end.” 

34. Have a conversation with other stepfamilies. 

Try to find a support group in your area for stepfamilies, or perhaps at your place of worship. Make friends with other stepfamilies who are going through the same problems that you are with, so they can offer you love and support to help you cope. 

35. If it is possible, both of you should move into a new home together. 

There should be no reason that you can’t move into a new home together, no matter how large or small, even if it’s just a small apartment. Alternatively, if you prefer a more neutral territory that avoids territorial disputes and hurt feelings, then this is the way to go. Not to mention, it will give you the chance to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

36. It is important to remember that this is a step-family. 

There is no way for a stepfamily to function as a natural family can and will. Once it is learned, it can become predictable that it will behave in certain ways. However, it has very distinct dynamics and behaviors. It can’t be forced to behave in the same way as a biological family member. 

37. It is important to be fair and not equal to others. 

The strengths and talents of different people are different. There is no way you can raise your kids exactly as you would want them to be, whethAs an example, you do not have to accompany example, you don’t have to take your child to every single movie that your stepkids get to see. 

38. Empathize with those suffering from an illness or anxiety. 

It is likely that there is at least one very good reason why your stepchildren seem uncooperative or unfriendly. The separation of their biological parents is likely to cause them to feel a sense of loss. There is even a possibility that they will blame themselves for their situation. I would urge you to have empathy and think about things from their perspective. 

39. Do not let anyone take advantage of you. 

You should take this into consideration especially if you are bringing your own children into the family. Make sure that you don’t make concessions for your children and harden up for your stepchildren or vice versa. Regardless of which side of the equation you are on, it is very important to be fair and consistent. 

40. Do not forget that you have a stepchild that needs your help. 

Give your stepson or stepdaughter your help if they need assistance on a big project or with their homework. You can establish a positive relationship with both of them by providing this service. We want you to help them as much as possible so that they can understand that you are there for them whenever they need you. 

41. Let your stepchildren decide how they want to refer to you. 

It does not make your family happy, if your stepchild calls you mom or dad. It is important to let them call you according to their convenience whenever they want to. Let them know that you do not intend to compete with their other biological parent so you should ask them what they would like to call you. 

42. It is not a good idea to expect your spouse to provide you with immediate support. 

As a parent to their children, your spouse has spent more time with them as a parent than they have spent with you as their spouse.  You have a supportive spouse when it comes to the kids, if they are willing to defend you in front of them. Otherwise, you do not have that support. Keep in mind that just because your spouse is not supportive, you shouldn’t run to them every time conflicts arise. That way, you won’t be able to resolve the issue. As an alternative, you may find it more sensible to set your own boundaries with the kids, and if that doesn’t work, you may even be forced to walk away and say, “not my kids, not my problem.” Eventually, your spouse will undoubtedly change their ways. 

43. It is important to you that you love your spouse’s children the way they love you.  

The issue is that your spouse is just trying to tell you how much they love the kids to the point where he or she defends them to you. In addition, raising your stepchildren can often be viewed as a reflection of how you really feel about your spouse (your spouse’s very own children). If you criticize your stepchildren, their biological parents will view your criticism as something that you are saying about them. 

44. There is no doubt in your mind that your spouse loves you very much. 

You should always remember that your spouse loves you with all their heart. They choose to marry you because they love you with all their heart. This fact may need to be repeated repeatedly in the beginning because you may not be used to it. 

45. Don’t let negative thoughts get in the way of your positive thoughts. 

Nowadays, in a society that is increasingly polarized, it is far too easy just to focus on the negative aspects of one’s stepfamily. Instead, try to view every situation as an opportunity to learn more. By doing that, you will be able to see that there is a lot to be happy about, and that there is a lot of things that can make you happy. 

46. Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you have a stepfamily. 

In addition to you and your spouse, your children will also begin to take pride in their stepfamily when you start to show pride in it yourself. In the end, everyone will also start to take pride in it. Brag on your stepkids and their accomplishments in the same way that you would for your biological children. Show your loved ones that only because you didn’t have them at the birth, they have a place in your heart despite not having been the mother. 

47. Be proud of your unique personality. 

Be sure to celebrate the uniqueness of your stepfamily as you take the time to do so. The best way to meet and get to know stepfamilies in the area is to organize a picnic where they can meet and spend quality time together. Having this support network will be of help to you in your efforts to establish a network which will benefit everyone. 

48. It is important to understand how stepfamilies work. 

It is important to realize once again that the dynamics between a stepfamily and a biological family are quite different. It is important to understand that there is a great deal to learn about stepfamilies and the dynamics they have. If you want to know how many stepfamilies exist there, you can research recent stepfamily statistics. If you want to determine your family’s rules and expectations, you can refer to our family rules and expectations page. The key is to understand that you can create a healthy family with your loved ones. 

49. Have pride in who you are. 

I can appreciate how challenging it might be to take on the children of your partner. I know, however, that you will be rewarded in the end. Your decision to commit yourself to a partner who has children as a result of a previous relationship or marriage is something that you should be proud of.

50. There is no such thing as giving up. 

I’m sure we’re all going to have hard times in the first few months, and sometimes even in the first couple of years. The stepkids of yours would like to know just how much they can depend on you, so they will push the limits of what you can do. As a family member, be there for your child and let them know that they can trust you unconditionally, just as their biological parents did for them. 

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