managing step kids
  • | October 5, 2016
Being a stepfather can be a real challenge at first. You'll likely have a lot of questions: What exactly is my exact role as a stepparent? What are the boundaries I need to abide by in my interactions with my stepchildren? How can I make my transition into their lives as painless, comfortable, and healthy as possible? Rest assured these questions and concerns are perfectly natural when entering the role of a stepparent.

To put your mind (and your household) at ease, here are some tips for effectively parenting your step kids:

  1. Be friendly during the initial introduction. If you want to leave a positive first impression on your stepchildren, be kind and friendly when you first meet. Don’t try to start a discussion about your new role as a stepparent or overwhelm them with details about how their lives are going to be different moving forward; kids need time get used to the change. Make it clear you're happy to have met them and reassure them your time together will be a positive experience.

  2. Set boundaries. Following the initial introduction and once everyone has established their presence in the house (the kids, you, and your partner), it would be wise to begin setting rules and boundaries, preferably after discussing the matter with their biological parent. For example, you could say, “In this house, we are all a family now, and we can do x, but we can’t do y.” Make sure they know these rules are not just restrictions on them but apply to everyone in the household. Moving forward, it will be important to show them how you also follow your own guidelines and provide your stepchildren with examples of you doing so. This way, the children will see those boundaries as family rules rather than punishments.

  3. Don't try to figure out what your stepchildren want all the time. Step kids are naturally hard to figure out because they are likely still reeling from the separation of their parents. They likely feel confused, depressed, or even traumatized by the situation, and they may not be immediately receptive to your attempts to bond with them. Avoid challenging them in an attempt to figure out what they're thinking; they may start to view you as an invasive presence in their lives and become resistant to you as a parental figure. Instead, respect their needs and their space without demanding too much in return. Subtle actions like these will work better in the long run when it comes to forming a real parent-child connection.

  4. Don’t discriminate. If are a blended family with both your biological children and your stepchildren, you may feel naturally inclined to pay more attention and affection to your biological children. It's possible you may never love your step kids the same way you love your biological kids, but when it comes to maintaining a happy home life, it's important to try to be fair and avoid any obvious discriminations between children. Examples of this discrimination can include giving your kids gifts and treats while your step kids get nothing, or taking your kids out to the movies or on trips while leaving your step kids behind. Keep things as equal as possible, and you'll have a more successful relationship with your stepfamily as a whole.

  5. Include your step kids in the family decision-making process. Step kids can sometimes feel intimidated, neglected, or powerless when two families come together. If you want to help build their confidence and show that they still have an important, active role in their family, make a point of involving them and asking for their input on family matters. Trying to pick a movie for family movie night? Give them the opportunity to choose the flick. Planning a family vacation? Ask for some places they'd like to go. Thinking about moving to a new town? Ask them honestly about how that kind of change would affect them. Giving your stepchildren a voice in the family is enough to make them feel their opinions and views are being considered and taken seriously.

If you're combining two families or joining someone else's family, making the children feel secure during the transition will go a long way toward forming a positive home life. At the end of the day, kids want to feel important and accepted by the parental figures in their lives. As a man taking on a new role of that nature, be sure to encourage your stepchildren to form healthy attachments to you that will benefit the whole family moving forward.

Good luck!