We often have little control over who we fall in love with. Most often, the perfect combination of time, place, and people collide to bring individuals together. Although we may have preferences in an ideal mate, sometimes the person we find ourselves drawn to (or their situation) takes us off guard because they are not what we’re used to or what we were prepared for.
What is the person you’re interested in has children from a previous relationship? Have you thoroughly considered what becoming a stepparent might be like?
Here’s 50 things every prospective stepparent should know or think about first:
1. The age of his kids will affect their willingness to accept you.
2. The length of time since mom and dad broke up will affect their openness to a parent’s new partner.
3. It’s not just adults healing from divorce, kids are healing too!
4. His kids may want to like you, but feel torn because it may seem like a betrayal to mom.
5. His kids may hate you because you make their hopes of mom and dad reuniting less likely.
6. His kids may hate you because you are a constant reminder that their mom isn’t present.
7. Follow the kids and your partner’s cues about the pace of your involvement.
8. Acceptance and blending takes time, so be patient!
9. Don’t put any pressure on the kids to like, let alone love you. Things will evolve in their own time.
10. Be very careful getting involved with disciplinary matters. Your partner should take the lead.
11. His kids may fear that you will take his attention away from them.
12. Have very clear expectations from your partner about your role.
13. His ex may feel incredibly threatened by your presence in her children’s lives.
14. If his ex still has feelings for him, she may find ways to take her jealousy out on you.
15. Always respect his ex’s position as mother of their children.
16. Be supportive of his children’s relationship with their mom. Badmouthing her will cause drama!
17. Understand that he has a responsibility to his kids that will leave you on the sidelines, at times.
18. Avoid crossing any lines by knowing exactly where your partner stands on parenting issues.
19. Always ask before doing anything potentially controversial (e.g. administering medication or a giving his kids a haircut).
20. Try to find ways you can connect with the kids in a casual manner.
21. Don’t pressure the kids to call you any form of “mom.” Let them call you what they want.
22. His children are a part of him. Treat them with the respect they deserve.
23. Try not to take anything said or done personally. Kids can act out from pain.
24. Humor and patience will get you far!
25. Bond through shared experiences and creating routines and traditions together.
26. Never make a child feel like she needs to choose between parents!
27. Don’t interfere with your partner’s parenting plan or established routines.
28. The key to success is honest and open communication with your partner! Ask for help, communicate frustrations, and have one another’s back!
29. Always make time for your relationship with your partner! Make the most of the children’s time away and stay connected!
30. Don’t get so caught up in the failures and frustrations that you miss the beauty of the overall picture!
31. Find other stepparents to share ideas with, vent to, and learn from.
32. As good as a stepchild can be at pushing buttons, always remember that you are the adult!
33. Think of yourself as a loving and supportive member of your stepchild’s team. How close you are to the spotlight will vary from day-to-day.
34. Little gestures go a long way to show that you care!
35. If you have children of your own, be very careful to treat all children the same when it comes to discipline, gifts, attention, and so on.
36. His children may see yours as a threat to their father’s priorities and resources.
37. Understand that mom and dad get top billing on red-letter days like graduation.
38. Remember that children will act out because of pain. You could have been anyone and may have been rejected. Try not to take rejection personally, and be there to help soothe and erase their pain.
39. Kids may be suspicious of your motives, afraid you will hurt them, and afraid you will hurt their parent. Be patient and true to your word, and you will build their trust.
40. Build on your special strengths and talents to find ways to reach out to the kids.
41. If you make a permanent commitment to your partner, you are also making a permanent commitment to his children.
42. You have a right to be treated with respect. If you are not, be sure that your partner knows how you feel!
43. Don’t get caught up in competitiveness with his ex. Do you and don’t worry about her!
44. Respect the boundaries of “parent’s only” activities such as parent-teacher conferences.
45. Develop a common interest like a hobby, traveling, or a pet to help everyone connect.
46. A child’s acceptance of a relationship with you may fluctuate during different developmental stages. Hang in there!
47. Don’t take part in any social media drama with or about his ex. Always take the high road and conduct yourself with integrity.
48. Understand that his parents had a relationship with his ex first and she is the mother of his children. They may still wish to maintain a relationship with her.
49. Take time for yourself. Stepmom self-care is essential! Give yourself breaks, treat yourself to pick-me-up’s, and listen to your inner voice telling you when it’s time for a deep breath.
50. No matter what, remember that what you do matters! Kids aren’t the best at showing appreciation; but, eventually they will mature enough to recognize the contribution you’ve made to their life. Additionally, ex drama will continue to subside as the kids grow up. You have the opportunity to make a real difference in their life as a loving and consistent member of their family. Your actions, good or bad, will be a model to help guide their future relationships and decisions.
Stepparents are amazing people! The role requires a much greater degree of challenge than typical parenting, but the rewards are also infinitely sweet! As with any new experience, it’s always wise to go in educated and with clear expectations. Entering the relationship with flexibility, thick skin, loads of patience, and a heart full of love will help it to begin in the best possible way!