As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life! Want to share your family’s story? Email us at email@example.com.
If you’re marrying a man or woman with kids and you don’t have kids of your own, it can be a serious adjustment. You’re taking on two new major life roles at once ― that of a spouse and a stepparent.
We asked experienced stepparents to share their best tips for newbies who don’t quite know where to begin. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Talk to your partner about life with their kids before you say “I do.”
“Talk to your partner about what their days look like, what their relationship is with their ex, how they discipline the kids and what their financial obligations are. Try and get a full understanding of what you’re getting yourself into and what their life is like when you’re not around. You will never know what it’s really like until you’re living it, but try and prepare yourself as much as possible. I could have avoided many awkward situations for myself and my husband if someone had told me this.” ― Gina Broere
2. Be patient.
“Children aren’t easy to win over. They will go at their own pace to feel out this new family dynamic. Have patience. Don’t rush things. It takes time to navigate your way around this new thing called parenthood, so don’t beat yourself up if things don’t click right away.” ― Jessica Valentino
3. Be respectful.
“Every good relationship is based in respect. Just because you are marrying their dad or mom, it doesn’t automatically make you their parent as well. That’s a coveted title that is earned. It’s no easy feat either. Be sure to always be respectful of the kids’ time with their parents, of their traditions and of their feelings. This makes it much easier to request respect in return. If your partner isn’t reinforcing respect in the relationship, then that is between you and your partner and needs to be addressed to move forward. In the best situation, respect turns to affection and good healthy relationships all the way around.” ― Laura Young
4. Seek out support.
“It doesn’t matter if it is a friend, your significant other, a family member or a therapist: you need someone you can talk to. There will be days where you will feel like you just can’t do it, and you will need their support or even just someone to talk to. You aren’t failing. It’s just that parenthood really isn’t easy for anyone, regardless of if you gave birth to the child or not.” ― Jessica Valentino
5. Don’t have inflated expectations.
“When you become a step-parent, you aren’t quite sure what to expect. Part of you thinks, ‘these are kids, and kids like me!’ However, step-children have a series of obstacles laid out in front of them. Don’t be alarmed if it takes a while for them to just say ‘hi.’” ― Stacy Clodfelder
6. Present a united front.
“Never let the children see you squabble over things they’ve done, but at the same time, make sure you let your partner know if something is bothering you. They can’t address a problem they don’t know exists.” ― Christina Stillings
7. Don’t forget to make time for you.
“You are suddenly taking on a family dynamic, and that dynamic can cause stress, hurt, anxiety and a sense of being overwhelmed. You have to take care of yourself through this change. Go shopping by yourself, get coffee with friends, read a book in a quiet area ― whatever makes you happy!” ― Stacy Clodfelder