Being a stepmom is no easy feat. Kudos to you for wanting the best relationship possible, you are already doing a great job! The first thing to realize is that you are not alone, the second thing is to know that you can have a healthy and wonderful relationship with your stepchildren. Take a deep breath and read on, here are 5 stepmom parenting tips that will help you on your journey.
Be a passionate supporter of them: Your goal should be to support them just as much if not more than your spouse. Not in a way that you overstep any boundaries, seem unusually obsessive, or push your spouse out of the equation; all of these will push the child away. Support them in a way that makes them realize that you truly care about them and their success. Make them believe that you are there for THEM not just for your spouse. Although you already know these things to be true, it will take extra effort to make them FEEL this support.
Be present: While being a supporter requires being present there are many other actions required to show a child that you love them. Being present does not mean showing up to every sporting event, every school ceremony, and every success and failure. If you have the ability to not miss a beat that is wonderful, however, there are many other ways to be present if you cannot be at every life event. Engage with them at the dinner table, don’t let your spouse do all the conversing. Engage with them in 1:1 conversations, don’t jump in only when others are talking to them. Answer all of their questions, be a shoulder to lean on, be a sounding board, just show up and be present! This is a surefire way to bond with a child.
Love them through it: Of course, you want to love them as your own. The problem with this mindset is that it sets you up for disappointment. There are going to be times when you are more easily annoyed, frustrated, and all around exhausted than your spouse. This is just part of being a stepparent, this child is not your blood. You have to know that it is okay to feel those emotions! However, the key to maintaining a healthy and loving relationship is by never letting the child see or feel those frustrations. That burden is not theirs and the moment they start to feel those emotions from YOU is the moment the relationship weakens. Don’t let them feel like your love for them lessons because of their actions. Fake it ‘til you make it!
Know your boundaries: Do not assume the role of primary caregiver. Overstepping your spouse will create tense air for everyone in the house, including yourself. Yes, you should still discipline and be involved with them. Do not discipline them more than your spouse or be the one to strike up important conversations. You should be involved in these areas, just not as the primary parent! This will create resentment in children, resentment towards you and anger towards their dad for bringing you into their life. There is a fine line, and this will be one of the more difficult things you face as a stepmom. It is about balance, do not put all the responsibility on your spouse but also do not be the one in charge of each and every responsibility.
Do not release all your negative emotion on your spouse: This is the final and most important tip. Do not put your spouse in a position where they feel they have to choose between pleasing you and pleasing their children. When you are frustrated take a step back and breath, know this moment is temporary. If you need to talk about it to feel better talk with your parents or a girlfriend, do not put this burden on your spouse. Yes, talk to your spouse about how you will parent as a team. Do not complain, this is a waste of your breath and puts stress on your relationship with your spouse. Complaining will never result in anything positive.
Everyone’s journey as a stepparent is different. Do not compare your successes and failures to that of others. Do not give up when you feel frustrated and tired, keep going. The reward is far greater than these frustrations. Remember that the role you play in the lives of these children is important! Take these tips to heart and know that there are going to be failures and tough days but with patience and perseverance, you can and will have a healthy and wonderful relationship with your stepchildren.