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Twelve Secrets for Successful Stepparenting

  • Be flexible
    The happiest and least stressed stepfamilies seem to be those in which all the members are flexible and willing to compromise when necessary. This includes being willing to change plans when needed. With so many individuals in their lives—including the other biological parent, stepsiblings, half siblings, and extended family—schedules often don't adhere to a rigid timetable. While routine is important, especially for younger children, the ability to adapt creates a less stressful environment for everyone. It's a good idea for all of us.

    Realize too that a "bonus baby" coming into the family will change your lives once again. Fortunately, most blended families said the changes created by the arrival of an "our baby" were positive for the most part.

    "The twins sort of solidified our blended family," said a mother with a daughter from a previous marriage and two stepsons. "They were everyone's babies and quickly became 'our babies' for the entire family. We found less sibling jealousy than our friends had in their nuclear families. I guess our kids were more used to sharing before the babies were born."

  • Be patient
    Stepparents must move slowly, planting the seeds of love and helping them to grow through respect, caring, and appropriate affection. It usually doesn't happen quickly, just as any tender plant grows in its own time.

    Patience indeed is a virtue, one that every stepparent must develop. It's often hard, especially when you feel as though you are doing everything you can to befriend your stepchildren and they don't seem to appreciate any of it. The cruel fact is, they may never give you what you want or need in return. Many of the adult stepchildren interviewed said it wasn't until they themselves were grown (and some of them became stepparents), that they fully appreciated the effort made by their stepparent. Some of them even shared that discovery with their stepparent.

    Be patient, and even if you don't develop the relationship you would have preferred, take comfort in the knowledge that you have done your very best. Try not to overreact over real or imagined slights. All kids tend to be somewhat thoughtless and even cruel at times. You don't have to be a stepparent to feel unappreciated by your kids.

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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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