Is Step-Parenting Getting You Down?

Being a stepparent is hard work

You feel in love and decided to get married or move in together. Congratulations! How exciting! But now after the wedding, the honeymoon, the move, trying to merge your stuff with his or her stuff comes reality. Just when you want to settle in for a nice quiet evening with your love, to just sit there and hold hands or have some fun adult time,  a small or a not so small person shows up wanting attention, dinner, to be driven to soccer or hockey practice or the mall, or just wants to spend alone time with their Mom or Dad. Move over step parent this is my spot!

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Know that being a stepparent with all the tricky and confusing things that it comes along with can be one of the hardest things to manage in your life. When you are struggling and find yourself isolated in thinking that “you should be able to handle it better” – remind yourself that step parenting can be a tough demanding job and that the pressure you are experiencing is not a reflection of how “unable” you are. This is normal. You are trying to fit into an already established relationship that needs time to adjust to the new realities and you need to adjust to as well. What can you do to help matters?

Your past unresolved issues (like a painful divorce) can also impact your present experiences and relationships. And perhaps the stress you are experiencing is affecting your relationship as well. Sometimes, you might try to explain this to your nearest and dearest, and you get all kinds of disapproval or judgements about how you are a problem. You are not necessarily the root of all the problems as joining a family and becoming a step parent can be a tough life experience for anyone to deal with. What are the challenges of being a step parent that you are experiencing in your unique circumstances? What issues or areas are proving difficult to manage as a new or not so new stepparent?

Every new marriage or live in relationship has an adjustment period we go through. Living together is not the same as dating or sleeping over at each others home. It’s very different. For instance, maybe much of your relationship with your new partner was spent without his or her kids. Or you didn’t sleep over too much cause of the kids. Either way now that you are a permanent fixture in the house and you’ve moved in this is an adjustment for everyone. And as the adult it’s you that has to make most of the adjusting.

Here are a few Step Parenting Tips to help smooth the way

  1. Recognize that Mom or Dad was a Mom or Dad before they became your partner. Kids no matter how young or old still need their Mom or Dad. Give them the space and time to alone time with their parent.
  2. Take care of your marriage. This can be tough if your partner has full custody and the kids don’t go live with Mom or Dad every week. But it’s super important to make time for yourselves.
  3. Talk with your partner. It’s important to express how you feel or what is going on for you if you’re feeling left out or pushed out. You can’t expect your partner to sacrifice his or her role as a parent but you do need to talk about your feelings.
  4. Do not accept parenting roles early in the relationship or marriage. It is important for you the stepparent to NOT assume the role of parenting too early in the relationship. It’s not your job to discipline or correct the children. Leave this to their parent. This may means something get dealt with a few hours later but leave discipline, chore assigning, chasing after homework to their parents.
  5. Creating a strong safe secure and happy marriage and home is the best gift you can give to your step children. Not everyday will be perfect but strive to create a secure, trusting, and positive relationship.  The way you resolve conflict is more important than resolving the problem.  Showing your stepchildren you can have happiness, respect and empathy in a relationship is precious.

doubt, fear, faith, hope and love sign postThough the tough times, make sure that you surround yourself with friends who can be a support for you and those who may have experience being a stepparent . This is crucial and can be very helpful in coping. Make sure to give yourself the gift of space and time to yourself as well. Remember to do the things you enjoyed doing before you became a stepparent.

If you are experiencing difficulty as a step parent and would like to find better ways to help manage the demands of being a step parent and manage your household / step-children and yourself and feel in more control, call one of our parenting counsellors at: 613-287-3799