Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
I recently married a man with a wonderful family of his own. I have a 9-year old son from my first marriage, and he has 14-year old twin daughters. The one thing that concerned us both was how our children were going to adapt to living in the same home. Much to our relief, our kids hit it off. My stepdaughters have already warmed up to my son and love him like a biological brother. With me, though, it’s a different story. They’re both still distant and rarely make conversation with me, even when we all go out to dinner or the movies. My husband and I need a little help making this new transition easier for all of us but don’t know exactly where to start.
So, you met your better half, fell madly in love, and are ready to settle down! Congratulations! If your new partner has children from a previous relationship, there’s a chance you may be feeling a little nervous about taking on the role of stepparent.
At Rice Psychology Group, our Tampa therapists and psychologists want to let you know that this is completely normal and also want to help you keep your worries at bay. Becoming a good stepparent is something that may be difficult but is definitely something that you can work on to make your new family stronger.
When two expecting parents are getting ready to welcome their newborn into the world, they’re ecstatic! But aside from the joy, there are other emotions that accompany the great news. There will probably be feelings of worry, fear, anxiety, and many more emotions that go hand-in-hand with having a child.
Stepparents, in a similar fashion, also have concerns once they become part of a new family. It isn’t uncommon for stepparents to worry about their connection with their stepchildren. They begin asking themselves such questions as:
- Will my stepchildren like me?
- Should I immediately begin parenting them or allow some time for our relationship to build first?
- Will disciplining them strain our relationship?
- What will my spouse think of me if I don’t hit it off with their child?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Stepparents will also have to worry about:
- Providing for their new kids.
- Parenting them after not having been there during their formative years.
- Having to spend time with the child(ren) when their biological parent isn’t around.
Do What Works and Steer Clear of the Rest
Research points to certain things that you should keep in mind to increase the likelihood of your stepfamily thriving:
- For children, joining a new family can be more difficult than divorce. New families may be easier to deal with for boys and children under eight, but it’s especially trying for teenage girls.
- In general, biological parents tend to focus more on being loving and understanding with their kids while stepparents may want to establish boundaries, sometimes before a trusting relationship is created.
- Parents must retain their role as the disciplinarian until the stepparent forms a trusting and caring relationship with the children. Keep in mind that this isn’t something that happens quickly. It’s a process that can take months or years.
- An authoritative parenting approach has been found to be much more effective than being passive or authoritarian.
- Authoritarian stepparenting, and authoritarian parenting in general, is often seen by children as toxic. Parents who opt for this style have high expectations for their kids without offering adequate nurturance and responsiveness. They can come across as cold, strict, and without much positivity.
- Couples are successful when they work together. Biological parents can help the stepparent to be more understanding, while stepparents can help biological parents be a little firmer with their kids. That is to say, stepparents can provide some input, but the biological parents have the final decision.
- Every stepfamily faces challenges, and some of these issues can be similar amongst them. The difference between those that find success and those that continually struggle is often that the successful family approaches issues with empathy and affection while the struggling ones are more likely to chastise and/or avoid issues altogether.
Let Our Tampa Therapists and Psychologists Help
Being a parent, going through a divorce, and welcoming a new family into your life is a very difficult sequence of events to experience. However, there are many things you can do to put yourself and your family on the right path toward building great relationships. Our team of Tampa psychologists and therapists will listen to your story in a calm and comfortable setting to help you feel at ease with your situation. Contact us for more information today.