New Delhi: Mistakes commonly made by step-parents. Forming a new family as a father or a mother can be both rewarding and a challenging experience. Step-parenting often varies according to the situation of the parent. The challenges and supportive factors depend upon the context – whether it is a divorce or the death of the other spouse. It even differs according to the age and gender of the child. While you, as parents, are likely to approach remarriage and a new family with great joy and expectation, your kids may not be nearly as excited about having a new parent.
They’ll likely feel uncertain about the upcoming changes, and how that will affect their relationship with you. Your children will also be worried about living with their new step-parent whom they might not know well.
As a parent, we are always excited to give our love and care to a child, but the child might not reciprocate the same feelings. Here are some common mistakes you can make as a stepparent:
Trying to get involved and becoming too comfortable with the child very early.
Trying to please the child by making them experience things that are not related to your everyday life. E.g. Taking them for a picnic or a movie or just trying to please them.
Expecting you and your new partner to have a similar parenting style without communicating first; not communicating with your new partner about each other’s parenting styles.
Over expectation from a child when it comes to respecting and accepting you.
Sometimes the biological parent might push the child too much to form a relationship with the new parent.
Transitions are hard and can be too much to process for a child, especially when it comes to their families. The above-stated mistakes can impact your child in these ways:
They might feel uncomfortable, get annoyed and develop resentful feelings towards the new parent.
The child’s expectation increases and they feel disappointed, eventually. It can become difficult for them to adjust to your daily life.
The child might feel confused regarding the rules and regulations of the family and might not feel safe and secure.
The child might feel burdened, and it decreases the chances of getting closer to the parent.
The child might not feel heard, valued, loved, and emotionally connected.
The important question then is – What can step-parents do to create a loving and fulfilling bond with the child?
Acceptance as a stepfather or mother.
Your understanding and acceptance of the transition of becoming a stepparent is the foundation for the wellbeing of your family.
Understand the developmental age of your child.
Kids of different ages and genders adjust differently. You will need to adjust your approach with different age groups and gender, but your goal of establishing a trusting relationship stays the same.
Understanding the roles and responsibilities: As a new stepparent, you shouldn’t step in as the enforcer at first, but work with your spouse to understand the roles and responsibilities and work as a team with the child.
Create a space in your stepchild’s life, slowly and gradually: Given enough time, patience and interest, most children will eventually give you a chance. Focus on creating an honest and open environment by being there with them emotionally and physically.
Spend quality time with your child: Try to spend quality time with your child daily, which would make them get used to your presence.
Communicate often and openly and listen respectfully: Establish an open and non-judgemental atmosphere.
Learn about positive parenting techniques: Be aware and educate yourself about the parenting tools and techniques. Read, ask, or get help from parenting professionals.
Outcome: You will increase your chances of bettering your relationship with your stepchild and your child will feel loved, valued, safe and secure, appreciated and encouraged, heard and emotionally connected. This would make the process of accepting you in their lives relatively easier.
(Asha Vaghasia, Founder and Parenting coach at We Positive Parenting Ahmedabad.)