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Twelve Secrets for Successful Stepparenting

Parenting and stepparenting is probably the most challenging job you can tackle, yet there are no job requirements (other than having kids). It doesn't require getting a child care license, serving an apprenticeship, passing an exam, or getting a degree. Worst of all, no instruction manual comes with the kids. You certainly wouldn't buy a refrigerator or computer that came with so little back-up information.

You're not professional parents, you're amateurs. What's more, even the professional counselors and therapists you go to for advice struggle just as much on a personal basis with their kids because it's hard to stand away and be objective about your own.

So relax. Trust your instincts. Follow the advice of the American physician and author, Benjamin McLane Spock. He wrote, "The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children, the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best after all."

This advice was echoed by a Tampa pediatrician, Lane France, who said, "The biggest problem I see with young parents today is that they don't trust their own judgment." Parents and stepparents interviewed for this book agreed with this counsel and happily divulged their secrets for success in blending their families.

  • Communicate
    This was the number one suggestion on everyone's list. Communication, which includes listening as well as speaking, is the key to opening the door to conflict resolution, for creating better understanding, and for solving problems that are bound to come up in daily life. Stepfamilies may have some difficulty with communication skills in the beginning. That's because the family members come from different original families, bringing with them varying styles of communication, different jargon, and dissimilar body language. But with time, patience, and practice, they should begin to blend even their communication styles and meet with success.

    Open communication helps to keep expectations realistic.

    "It startled me to realize that my new husband loved his own kids as much as I did mine," a newly remarried woman told me. "I guess that should have been obvious. But I wanted him to instantly love my girls as I did. When we started talking about it, I understood why he couldn't. It wasn't just a question of loyalty. He didn't have the history with my kids. We both knew we'd have to take things more slowly. I'm glad we could talk about it."

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    From Blending Families by Elaine Fantle Shimberg. Copyright © 1999. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

    If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.

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