Being a stepmother is a challenge like no other. It can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you can find a way to navigate the challenges you can forge strong, lasting bonds with your partner’s children and eventually become a close family.
Being a stepmother doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and commitment to make the new relationship work. It’s only natural that feelings will be running high on both sides, and the relationship can quickly become fraught.
If you’re a stepmother or about to become one, here are some tips to help you navigate your new role with as little worry as possible.
Fairness is vital to building a good relationship with your stepchildren, especially if you already have children of your own. Sit down with your partner and agree on ground rules and guidelines to keep things fair for everyone involved. If you both have children, it’s vital that everyone has the same ground rules, guidelines, allowance, time for hobbies and so on.
Being fair helps build a strong foundation for your new relationship with your stepchildren.
Make your family a priority
Family takes time and commitment, especially when big changes are taking place. Becoming a stepfamily is a huge change for everyone. Now more than ever, your stepkids need you to make family a top priority. Spend plenty of time with them and let them see that they matter to you.
Be aware that they might not always show their appreciation – this is a difficult time and they might take time to warm to you – but keep making them a priority no matter what.
Honor their relationship with their mother
Your stepkids might be scared that you’re trying to take over from their Mom, and they don’t want a new Mom. They already have a mother that they love. You can head off a lot of stress in the future by honoring their relationship with their mother.
Be clear with them that you’re not trying to replace their Mom or even replicate their relationship with her. You understand that what they have is special and unique – you’re looking to form your own relationship with them. Let that new relationship be on their terms.
Avoid any temptation to speak badly about their Mom, and encourage their Dad to do the same. Aim for harmony and respect, not taking pot shots at the other party.
Appreciate the little things
In the midst of adjusting to a step parenting relationship and all the challenges that come with it, it can be easy to lose site of the little things.
Maybe one of your stepkids hugged you before school. Maybe they asked for help with homework or got excited to tell you about their day. These little things are all signs that they’re learning to trust you and value your input into their lives. Every moment of contact and connection is special.
It might not seem like much if there are arguments and big things to deal with, but over time those little moments build into a loving and open relationship.
Decide what really matters
As you navigate becoming a stepmother, you’ll find there are a lot of things to be discussed and decided on. From how to handle holidays to bedtimes and mealtimes to what TV shows your family can watch, there’s a lot to think about.
Some of these things can quickly become fraught as your new family finds its shape and its edges. You can help smooth things over by deciding on what really matters to you and focusing on that.
You don’t have to win every point – stand your ground when something is vitally important to you, but be prepared to compromise too. This lets your stepkids know that you value their opinions too, and that not everything has to be a battle. After all, you’re all on the same team.
Be there for them
Settling into a new step parent relationship is difficult. Your stepkids are going through a fraught and worrying time, with a lot of big changes happening. Right now, they really need to know that they have people they can turn to, adults who will be there for them no matter what.
Let your stepkids know that that adult, is you. Be there for them consistently, on good days and bad. Whether it’s a homework crisis or insecurity over the changes taking place, let them know you’re there. Make time for them and if they have a concern, listen carefully and give their worries the space and respect they deserve.
Manage your expectations
Unrealistic expectations of your new living situation will only lead to stress and fights. Things aren’t going to go perfectly, and that’s ok. You’re still finding where you fit in, and your stepkids are still discovering where they want you to fit in. At first, they might not want you to fit in at all.
There will be good days and bad days, but don’t lose hope. Every rough patch is just another opportunity to learn and grow together, and to learn more about each other’s needs.
Becoming a stepparent isn’t a one time thing. It’s a process that takes dedication, love and patience. Be consistently fair, loving and supportive and give your new relationship time to grow and bloom.