Raeleen Davis, LPC, NCC
Defining Your Roll as a Step-Parent
Every family faces challenges, and blended families are no different. In fact, families with step-parents can face unique obstacles that other families may not encounter. If you have been a step-parent for one week, one month, or one year, you may have questions on how to be the best parent you can be.
Initially forming a step-family requires consideration of the transitions that the children have been through in their lives. In the past, they have formed unique relationships with each of their parents, with history and routines that they were used to. Transitioning from a ‘first-family’ to possibly a single-parent family can also cause a lot of distress to children. They need to get used to new rules and routines. Then, when there is a change to a family with a step-parent, children undergo another period of transition that may be difficult for them. By being an understanding step-parent, who can empathize with their step-child(ren), you can help them through the transition and build a better relationship in the process.
You may want to establish a close relationship with your step-children right away, but first understanding the child’s current emotional status is important in establishing that bond. Oftentimes, the younger the child, the easier it is to develop a new relationship. As children enter the pre-teen years, they are beginning to form their own identities and often separate more from their family. By the time the child reaches the later teen years, they require less direct parenting and are often less resistant to a new step-parent.
The relationship between a new step-parent and child should not be one of a disciplinarian, but rather more of a friend. While the biological parent should continue to be responsible for discipline, it is often helpful to hold a family meeting to develop a list of house rules, where rules and consequences are agreed upon by all members of the family. By doing so, the responsibility for implementing consequences for breaking rules is shifted from you, the step-parent, to the agreed-upon rules. Once your relationship grows, which could take a year or more, you can transition into more of a parental role.
The transition to blended families can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and support, healthy relationships can be developed. If you or your child needs support during this critical time, you can contact an experienced counselor at Defining You for a free phone consultation, contact us via email, or schedule an appointment for an initial session. We look forward to hearing from you!