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9 Stepparenting Dos and Don'ts

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5. DON'T set your expectations too high.

"This is especially important for stepparents that already have children of their own," Steinorth says. "You may feel that you'll be able to step into a new family and have the same interactions, feelings, and bonds you share with your biological children. What new stepparents seem to forget is that they have a shared history with their biological children that they don't have with their stepchildren. Give your ‘new family' time to develop its own unique dynamic, without any pressure of how you think it should be."

6. DON'T overstep your bounds.

"A big mistake many stepparents make is over-disciplining a child in an attempt to gain respect," Barrow says. "This often backfires and causes the kid to despise them. I recommend stepping back and allowing the primary parent to discipline their own children for at least the first year. After you've spent time earning their affection and respect, then you have a much better chance of being listened to."

 

7. Be ready to hear, "You're not my real mom/dad."

"This is a stepchild's way of trying to take power away from your role," Steinorth says. 

Be ready with an appropriate response.

"When it happens, the key is to not deny what your stepchild is telling you. Keep it factual and avoid the power struggle." Your best bet? "You're right, I'm not your biological parent, I'm your stepparent. But that doesn't mean I love or care about you less."

 

8. DO plan activities with your stepchild.

Bike together, go bowling, take an art class together, or even go grocery shopping and cook dinner together once or twice a week. "Shared experiences are a great way to bond with stepchildren," Steinorth says. "Try to carve out one-on-one time together at least once a month."

 

9. DON'T take it personally.

"Just remember that your stepchildren are dealing with their own feelings about the end of their biological parents' marriage," Steinorth says. 

"When parents divorce, many children still hold out hope that their parents will work things out and get back together. But when a stepparent comes into the picture, the new stepparent is, in essence, putting an end to that dream. Kids mourn the loss of what they had hoped could be, and those feelings take time to work through."

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Reviewed on December 06, 2012

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