Tips on “Stepping”

“Stepping” is my term for parenting a stepchild. While this experience can be joyful and bring dimension to your life; it is fraught with pitfalls. So let’s look at a few do’s from The Do’s and Don’t’s list.
1. Do discuss in the family forum (weekly family meetings ) with the child and the child’s parent, the household standards. Let the child’s parent lead the meeting. Identify yourself as an equal member of the group. Offer your contribution as to “rules” and standards and let the group or the parent make the decision. If you don’t agree with the decision or think that you cannot enforce it, Don’t accept responsibility in situations where you are alone with the child.
2. Do check your emotions at the door. Frustration is probably the biggest detractor to harmony in the home. When you feel frustration build, try a few calming techniques. For example, stop talking, review the rules in your head, asked the child once for compliance, present the child with choices, and most importantly….allow the parent to enforce the consequences when at all possible. Don’t raise your voice, make ultimatums, or allow anger to get in the way of that goal.
3. Do honestly assess your ability to assume the role of authority when the child’s parent is not present. It may not be possible at times in your stepping, to be the authority figure. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
4. Do try to identify and understand the many reasons the child might not comply with the rules when you are in a position of responsibility. The child might not see you as an equal parent. The child might be harboring anger over the loss of the other parent due to separation or divorce. The child might not be able to follow through with the task at hand. The child might have different standards with different people, and depending on the child’s age, may not be able to manage all the rules. The child might have difficulty with transition from one home to the next. The child might use nonverbal communication, that is noncompliance with rules, as a way of expressing emotion. Don’t “push the river” if compliance is not forthcoming.
5. Do remain in constant communication with the other parent and be willing to step back from the situation. It is not always true that your goals, based on your childhood and possibly your parenting, will apply as a “stepparent”. Don’t try to enforce your version of parenting on your own in a “stepparenting” situation.
6. Do remember that “stepparenting” is extremely difficult because it asks you to fulfill many roles at the same time. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or problems comes up in dealing with your stepchild, remember that you are not the parent. Don’t engage when a difficulty comes up because yours is usually not the final word.
7. Do be true to the family standards, manager emotional reaction, follow the family rules, and don’t engage in a disagreement. Don’t worry about defending yourself if a difficulty comes up-discuss with your partner a way to avoid the problem in the future.
8. Do be careful to not let “stepparenting” come between you and your partner. Together you put the child’s first. Don’t lose sight of the goal.