Becoming a Stepparent

Becoming a Stepparent

Becoming a parent by blending families or marrying someone with kids can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. If you've never had kids, you'll get the opportunity to share your life with a younger person and help to shape his or her character. If you have kids, you'll offer them more opportunities to build relationships and establish a special bond that only siblings can have.

In some cases, your new family members may get along without a hitch (just like The Brady Bunch), but other times you can expect difficulties along the way. Figuring out your role as a parent — aside from the day-to-day responsibilities that come with it — also may lead to confusion or even conflict between you and your partner, your partner's ex-wife or ex-husband, and their kids.

While there is no foolproof formula for creating the"perfect" family (every family has its own dynamics), it's important to approach this new situation with patience and understanding for the feelings of those involved. Here's how to make things easier as you adapt to your new role.

Start Slow

The initial role of a stepparent is that of another caring adult in a child's life, similar to a loving family member or mentor. You may desire a closer bond right away, and might wonder what you're doing wrong if your new stepchild doesn't warm up to you or your kids as quickly as you'd like — but relationships need time to grow.

Start out slow and try not to rush into things. Let things develop naturally — kids can tell when adults are being fake or insincere. Over time, you can develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your stepchildren, which doesn't necessarily have to resemble the one they share with their birth parents.

Factors That Affect Your Relationship

Children who are mourning the loss of a deceased parent or the separation or divorce of their birth parents may need time to heal before they can fully accept you as a new parent.

For those whose birth parents are still alive, remarriage may mean the end of hope that their parents will reunite. Even if it has been several years since the separation, kids (even grown ones!) often hang onto that hope for a long time. From the kids' perspective, this reality can make them feel angry, hurt, and confused.

Other factors that may affect the transition into stepparenting:

Knowing ahead of time what situations may become problematic as you bring new family members together can help you prepare so that, if complications arise, you can handle them with an extra dose of patience and grace.

Steps to Great Stepparenting

All parents face difficulties now and then. But when you're a stepparent, those obstacles are compounded by the fact that you are not the birth parent — this can open up power struggles within the family, whether it's from the kids, your partner's ex, or even your partner.

When times get tough, however, putting kids' needs first can help you make good decisions. Here's how:

No matter what the circumstances of your new family, chances are there'll be some bumps along the way. But don't give up trying to make things work — even if things started off a little rocky, they still can (and probably will) improve as you and your new family members get to know each other better.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2013





Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.





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Related Resources
OrganizationChildren's Rights Council Local chapters of the Children's Rights Council throughout the country deal with custody issues and divorce reform and work to ensure meaningful and continuing contact for the child between both parents and extended families. Contact them at: Children's Rights Council 6200 Editors Park Dr., Suite 103 Hyattsville, MD 20782 (301) 559-3120
OrganizationThe National Stepfamily Resource Center The National Stepfamily Resource Center is a division of Auburn University's Center for Children, Youth, and Families. The group aims to share the latest research with couples and children who are members of stepfamilies.
OrganizationAmerican Association for Marriage and Family Therapists This organization provides listings of marriage and family therapists nationwide.
OrganizationAssociation of Family and Conciliation Courts This organization publishes a brochure on joint custody as well as a journal with the most current thinking on joint custody. Contact this group at: Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
6525 Grand Teton Plaza
Madison, WI 53703 (608) 664-3750
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