How to Be a Supporting and Loving Stepparent

Whether you are a parent yourself or not, the new waters can be difficult, so put on a life vest. Know who you are and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.


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    Realize that there is no manual for building onto an already existing family; we all carry some sadness for what is no longer there. Children and adults carry those burdens differently. Finding your place in the new family is the thread that holds together the life vest.
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    Determine what keeps you grounded. Where do you find solace? If this is something you've never asked yourself, or you don't know, it's absolutely essential to do that soul searching. Because in the most trying of family times you need to find your own strength.
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    Read any material on step-parenting, but remember to find your own style. Help is always available if you seek it out. Many religious groups offer guidance, and individual or family counseling can be helpful, as well. Sometimes all you need is a safe place to air your feelings. This is best done with a trusting and compassionate friend.
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    Apologize when necessary. Always honor your partner and the bond with the children, just as you honor the bond you have with yours.
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    Coordinate with your partner on discipline. Parents of any marital status sometimes disagree on discipline for the children -- discuss as many issues as possible ahead of time, so you can tackle them as a team. Pay attention to patterns; they can tell you a lot about what future issues might be.
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    Maintain a loving and supportive household. It gives children the stability they need to feel safe.
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    Go slow. Don't expect the children to embrace you right away. Expect set-backs. Let the relationship develop at its own pace.


  • Sometimes we learn lessons whether we're ready for them or not. Reacting to life's struggles often requires a delayed reaction so you can gain perspective. This is where your life vest comes in. Will you take a walk to gain insight, or will you divulge your emotions before assessing them? Know what brings you peace when you need that small distraction.
  • Never tell the child they are immature or are have horrible manners. It's really not your place. By doing this you set the child on edge and they are most likely not going to accept you.
  • Always remember children will be hurtful when their life routine has been changed to their disadvantage. Calm should be your motto; no good can come from escalating an already emotional situation.
  • Spend time together and foster new relationships. Children need to know your marriage is strong. Show this by taking the time to listen to your children -- together. Even if the children protest, eat dinner together, go to the park, etc. Any time together they will remember. Teamwork is the key.
  • If you give respect it should be expected in return.


  • Seek professional help if the household is always full of tension, if your spouse cannot or will not contribute emotionally to building a strong step-family, or in case of abuse.
  • The children might still be sad about the loss of the first family, so try to help them deal with the loss by being compassionate. If the loss cannot be described or is denied, professional help could be effective.
  • Take the long view. The step-kids probably won't really appreciate you and what you've done for them and their parent (for good or for bad) until they're adults themselves (just as you view your own parents differently now than you did as a kid). The same step-siblings that are at each other's throats right now will have each other's back in 10 years.
  • If the other parent is still alive, the best you may be able to hope for, with regard to your step-kids, is to be a good friend. You're not going to be the kids' "new mommy" or "new daddy." They've already got one, thank you, and will be justifiably disgusted if you try to position yourself that way, the non-custodial parent will be furious, and your partner will be put in a very awkward position.
  • Never bad-mouth or criticize an absent biological parent to his or her kids. Don't even do it if there is the slightest chance of them overhearing you. Even in cases of abuse or abandonment, kids tend to have a fierce loyalty to their biological parents.

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Categories: Step Parents