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How To Get Along With Stepchildren

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Authored by Nickie Fleming in Parenting
Published on 06-22-2009

Statistics say that 50% of all marriages will fail. Perhaps lesser known is the fact that 85% of remarriages fail, especially when kids are involved. Most people fall in love and enter the new marriage expecting a fairy tale ending. Alas, in fairy tales Prince Charming doesn’t have a couple of kids hanging around, and he wasn’t married to the wicked witch before. And in those same fairy tales the stepmother is often the wicked witch. What can be done about this?

A first thing you can do is to realize that stepchildren are not your own children. However, if stepchildren live together with your own children in one home, it is extremely important that you set rules for all to respect. Your partner has the responsibility over his children, you over yours. Still, it may be good to discuss what acceptable rules and boundaries are for the newly constructed family. That way everyone can adhere to them.

You must assume it is normal that children will feel angry and hurt when their parents separate. Unfortunately, they won’t direct their anger towards the source. Instead, they’ll attack the person they perceive as the interloper – the stepmother or stepfather.

Stepchildren – just like your own – will try to get a reaction from you. They’ll say something or do something to bother you. If you react, they’ll know they’ve struck a nerve and will continue to pick at it. You have to decide how far you will take this. You can’t be too severe, but neither too laid back. Never go as far as losing authority in your own house.

You’ll find out that your stepchildren have their likes and dislikes. Show an interest in what they are doing. If given a chance, most children will talk about their favorite activity and will throw themselves into it, no matter the company they’re in.

If problems occur, you must realize that they are not likely to be the child’s fault. You must always look to the people raising the child. Many non-custodial parents want to play a disciplinary role because they don’t see their child often. They often harbor ill feelings towards their ex and his or her new partner that the children will pick up, subtle or not. A lot of stepmothers or stepfathers will cringe when they hear the phrase: ‘Mummy/Daddy says that…” It is the child’s way of playing out situations to his or her advantage.

Normally, you would expect your partner to discipline the kids when they do something wrong. When he or she doesn’t, the stepparent has no other choice. If you think your partner allows the children to flaunt the rules, you’ll have to discipline him or her. Inform him (her) of what you can live with, and what is not acceptable to you. This may sound hard, but the rewards are rich.

In the end, remember that kids will always be kids. Only the guidelines and examples provided to them by the adults in their lives will affect the adults they become.

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