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Twelve Secrets for Successful Stepparenting

  • Keep your sense of humor
    Almost everyone agreed that a sense of humor is an important ingredient to stir into the blended family pot. Humor softens the rough spots and brings families together. Just remember to never use humor at another person's expense and never permit any of the children to do so either.
  • Learn to compromise
    Although finances may prevent you and your new spouse from buying a new home, do so if you can. It's difficult enough for a stepparent to move into an already existing family. When it's the same home as well, the kids (and often the biological parent) may openly or subconsciously resent any changes in decoration, traditions, or actually anything suggested by the stepparent.
  • Respect others
    Members of a blended family don't need to agree with each other necessarily, but they must to learn to respect not only the opinions of the other members of their family, but also the privacy and personal possessions of those members. Children often need to share a room with a stepsibling or double up so a stepsibling or half sibling can have their former room. They need to have the confidence that their "stuff" will be safe from prying or curious hands. This is also vital when the parents' other children come to spend time in the blended family home. These tumbleweed youngsters need a private place that's secure for their things as well.

    Biological parents should make it clear to their children that they will tolerate no disrespect to the stepparent. The parent also should be careful that he or she is always respectful both in word and action to the stepparent. Children model our behavior.

  • Accept Imperfections
    Don't try to be the perfect blended family. If you strive for perfection, you'll only succeed in becoming frustrated. Accept the fact that you and your spouse are not Norman Rockwell models and that The Brady Bunch was only a television show, not an actual blended family.

    Accept too that there will always be a former spouse, your stepkids' parent, in the picture, even if that person is deceased. Actually, a ghost parent can be more difficult to deal with because his or her faults seem to vanish in the midst, leaving nothing but pictures of perfection. And that's hard to deal with.

  • Be yourself
    Be yourself at all times, as kids can easily see through our masks and discern what is really us. You'll wear yourself out trying to play your characterization of the perfect stepparent twenty-four hours a day. Don't try to impersonate what you think the kids (or your spouse) want in a stepparent either. Just be you.

    Rather than thinking of yourself as a stepmother or stepfather, consider yourself more as the children's adult friend or a friendly aunt or uncle. It will give you the distance you need while they size you up and is a role you can continue to live with if the kids don't eventually warm up to you. Usually, they'll come around to some degree if they sense you aren't trying to usurp their other parent's role.

  • 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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