Twenty Rules for Being a Good Stepparent
Good stepparents are treasured family members, offering children a great deal of love and support without infringing on their existing relationships with their natural parents. While each person’s definition of a good stepparent is bound to be unique, there are some basic rules that stepparents can follow that will help endear them to the children of their spouse.
- Get to know the children before you take your vows. Becoming a stepfamily can be a difficult transition for everyone, but it helps a great deal if potential stepparents have the opportunity to form affectionate connections with their partner’s children before they unite as a family.
- Understand that the children are a permanent part of your life. Children, and the complications that come along with them, are never a “sometimes” proposition. No matter where the children call home, parents and stepparents must be prepared to make many of their life choices based on the needs of the children.
- Don’t expect instant love. Caring relationships take time to develop, so good stepparents allow their stepchildren plenty of time to adjust to their presence in their family.
- Demand respect. While stepchildren should not be forced to feign love for a stepparent, they should be expected to behave in a respectful manner.
- Be kind and consistent. One of the most important rules of being a parent is to practice kindness and consistency. Good parents (and stepparents, too) understand the value of providing kids with a solid home base.
- Accept your stepchildren for who they are. Parents do not get to choose the type of children that they get – so good stepparents learn to accept and appreciate their stepchildren for the exceptional individuals that they are and to celebrate each child’s unique gifts.
- Work with your spouse as a team. House rules can be difficult for children to accept, but when they are presented by both the children’s parent and stepparent, kids realise that they will be required to comply.
- Don’t compete with the children for your spouse’s love/time. A parent should always be allotted time to spend with their children, without it causing difficulty in their marriage. Confident stepparents realise that their spouse’s love for their children in no way diminishes their relationship.
- Nurture your marriage. In many cases, stepchildren have already had to endure the painful break-up of their parents’ relationship. They do not need to relive that pain by witnessing the demise of their parent and stepparent’s marriage.
- Never criticize your spouse in front of the children. This rule applies just as equally to natural children.
- Don’t discuss custody or child support in front of the children. Kids should not be subjected to disagreements between their parents and should be shielded as much as possible from adult problems.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Learning to choose battles wisely and to avoid petty arguments is a sure sign of a good stepparent.
- Be a grown-up. Childish or selfish behaviour has no place in parenting.
- Don’t be afraid to say no. Children need to live by a reasonable set of rules, so good stepparents find the strength to take a firm stand when the welfare of the children is at stake.
- Treat all of the children equally. Natural children and stepchildren should be expected to adhere to the same set of house rules and must be afforded the same privileges.
- Treat your spouse’s ex with respect. Treating the children’s other natural parent disrespectfully is hurtful to the kids and is never okay.
- Get used to sharing holidays and other special days. Kids have more family that only those who live in their household, so concessions must be made to see that the children have access to their other family members.
- Create a safe environment that allows the honest sharing of feelings. While kids should not be allowed to treat other family members unkindly, they should allowed and encouraged to express their emotions, knowing that their feelings will be taken seriously.
- Exercise patience. Being a good stepparent (or parent) often requires a great deal of patience. Kids, though wonderful, can be trying at times and smart stepparents know when to take a step back and a few deep breaths.
- Remember that biology isn’t the most important part about being a parent. The most important of all of the rules – this one is a gentle reminder about what is truly important in any family, and that is love. The most precious bonds are not those of matching strands of DNA, but of a life shared.
Whether you call them rules or guidelines, the above recommendations have been offered to help stepparents in their quest to form and maintain happy families. Children tend to grow close to the people who show them, day after day, that they are valued and appreciated. Good stepparents can help to give children happy childhoods and can also provide them with a solid base of confidence and self-esteem to help find success all throughout their lives.