Step-parenting is when you take place of the biological parent of a child. It can happen when you marry a person who is having a biological child. The person might have lost his/her spouse due to health reasons or accident. Sometimes he/she may have decided to part ways through mutual understanding or divorce. It is a difficult situation for the child who is very attached to his/her parent. And more difficult to accept somebody completely unknown enter his/her life as a parent. The child may experience negative emotions such as fear, anger, defiance, frustration etc., in such situations. As every relationship has its own ups and downs, the step-parenting also has its own rewards and challenges which has to be dealt with maturity and understanding.
Rewards for the child and parent:
As step-parent, you have some rewards when you get to live with your spouse and step-children.
1. Key-role in the child’s life:
As a step-parent, you can play a key role in the life of your step-child. You get to have an insight into the interests, adventures, and friends of your stepchild.
2. Pleasures of extended family:
A good relationship with your stepchild is a gate that will open to many more people related to your partner. You get introduced to grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins etc., of your stepchild who will make you aware of the plus and minus points of your partner and his/her child or children.
3. Company of half-siblings:
As a stepparent, when you have your own kids, and also your spouse kids, then there is an opportunity for the kids to connect as half-siblings. Thus the kids have company to interact and entertain themselves.
4. Appreciation of spouse:
When you as stepparent get along well with the kids and take care of their needs, you gain much affection and appreciation of your spouse.
1. Your parenting style:
When it comes to parenting a stepchild, you may prefer your own parenting style. You should be aware that the child is used to different parenting style by his/her biological parents and he/she may resent your parenting style. It is always better to wait and watch before jumping into the role. First, try to understand the nature of the child and how he/she interacts with his/her biological parent. Speak to your partner and agree on a common parenting style.
2. Step-parent and child relation:
The child may have less maturity to understand the dynamics that go into a relationship. He or she may not like the fact that his/her parent’s attention is diverted towards the stepparent. The stepparent also needs time to understand the stepchild and get into the parenting role.
With the entry of your spouse, you have to divide your attention between your spouse and your child. He/she may not like when you try to reason or discipline, blaming your spouse for the fall-out. You have to make your child aware of the importance of the step-parent in your as well as his/her life.
4. The relationship between step-siblings:
There can be clashes between the step-siblings for attention, space, toys, gadgets etc. Both parent and step-parent have to step in and bring peace. Children are quick to point out if there is partiality shown and ready to blame the step-parent. As parents, we have to be neutral, balanced and impartial when taking care of step-children and biological children.
5. The relationship between your partner and their child:
When you are the step-parent, you need to understand your partner and his/her relation and parenting style with the kids. You should be aware that the kids can have behavior problems such as being suspicious, jealous and sometimes arrogant. Instead of complaining, sharing the parenting problems with your partner and arriving on a solution will close the gap between you, your partner and the children.
Effective tips for step-parenting:
1. Spend time:
Spending time with your stepchildren is the only way, you can bond with them. Being around and helping them in studies, project work, attending their cultural and sports meet, escorting them to their friend’s birthday parties etc will give a boost to the relationship you are trying to establish.
As a stepparent, your behavior towards the children should be consistent without being too harsh or too lenient. If your behavior is not consistent, the kids will get confused and stop listening to you or they may take advantage and not follow the parenting rules that you have established.
3. Stay tight:
Whatever is the situation, you being in charge of the situation will help you to keep the family together and less opportunity for the kids to complain or manipulate. Initially, the child may hate you, but later he/she will respect you for the stance you have taken.
4. Love them:
Easier said than done, as a stepparent you have to make a conscious effort to love your children. You need to correct the negative attitudes and behavior of the kids and at the same time love them for the little things that reflect positiveness.
Do’s & Don’ts of step-parenting:
- Before your entry into the family as a step-parent, there may be different parenting rules which you should be aware of and which the kids are used to. Discussing and agreeing upon common parenting rules with your spouse would be the first step to successful step-parenting.
- Having regular discussions with your spouse and keeping him/her informed about your interactions with the kids will help you understand whether you are doing it the right way.
- Spending time with your stepchild is the only way you get to know the child and the child gets to know you and a bond develops.
- Let your child spend time with the biological parent. It should not upset you and make you feel apprehensive. Being friends with the biological parent will help you understand the child.
- Overcome your hesitation to give company to your stepchild. This will be an opportunity for you to establish a positive relationship.
- Show your gratitude and happiness, when your stepchild accepts you.
- Do not have high expectations that relationship issues will settle down soon. It will take time for you to understand the nature of your stepchild and his/her likes and dislikes.
- Do not try to take place of the biological parent of your stepchild. Accept the fact that the biological parent will always be there in the life of the child. Try to be your normal self when interacting with your stepchild.
- Never get involved when your spouse and his/her child are into the serious discussion unless you are consulted. Also never ever take sides or interfere when an argument is going on between the parent and the child.
- Bad-mouthing the ex of your spouse will distance you from your stepchild. Every child has fond memories of his/her parent and will not like when the step-parent, speaks badly about his/her parent.
- Do not try to show your desperation to win over your stepchild by showering him/her with praises and gifts.
- Over disciplining the child will damage your relations with the child. Take time to understand the child and then try to handle the behavioral issues.
- Once you step into the role of a step-parent, it is not okay to assume authority over the children. The children will be missing their natural parent and will resent your domination.
Step-parenting in the present context:
Step-parenting in Indian culture has been distorted and misunderstood. Be it folktales or movies, the stepparent has been often shown as a villain whose sole aim is to separate the child from his/her spouse. Often the kids are misguided by the elders whose only thought is the step-parent will never love or take care of a child of his/her spouse. But times have changed. The present generation has an open attitude and does not get influenced by people who try to poison their minds. They are educated and have independent views on parenting as well as step-parenting. They are open to step-parenting and consider the welfare of the child as a top priority.
Whether it’s a marriage or remarriage or partnership between couples, we have to handle the kids with understanding, empathy and discipline. Being a stepparent is no excuse for shrugging away from parenting duties. Though we may not be able to parent a stepchild as our own biological child, all efforts should be made to take care, guide and integrate the child into the family so that parents and children share a bond which they will cherish as they grow up.