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With the rapid increase in the rate of divorce over the last decade, their has been a corresponding increase in the number of step families. For the new couple this is a time of rediscovered love, but for the step children it is quite likely that some very different emotions have come into play. Conflicts of loyalty, feelings of jealousy, and resentment at the stepparent’s arrival are not uncommon. They may feel that the stepparent is trying to replace them in the affections of their natural parent. Yes, stepparents undoubtedly inherit difficulties and problems that are not easy to negotiate. So, is it possible to raise happy, well-adjusted children in a stepfamily?

There are millions of successful step-families around the world. By cultivating some basic qualities your family can be among them. The underlying requirement for success in any family is love. This much misused word indicates a willingness to work good toward others, to be patient and kind. Genuine love helps to smooth over differences and it unites people with different upbringings and personalities. It is unrealistic to expect instant love from inherited stepchildren. A step parent should understand that it is only natural that a child will have more affection for his absent natural parent at the outset, and that he may never replace the biological parent in the hearts of the children. A mature, realistic outlook here will encourage the stepparent to work for the children’s love and respect.

A touchy area for stepfamilies is that of discipline. Children may have been reared with a certain type of discipline by a now absent parent. But now the new parent introduces a different type of discipline. Tension is bound to arise. Love will help both parent and child to be mild and patient as they learn to understand one another. Impatience on the part of the stepparent can quickly ruin any relationship that has been achieved. It is vital that any discipline be administered with justice. Of course, rearing children implies the need to say no. Often, though, it is wise for the natural parent to be the main disciplinarian – at least initially. This provides time for the children to feel confident of the stepparent’s love for them before being disciplined by that one.

It is very important that the partners in a stepfamily maintain an open and frank communication. It is vital that the children see that the parents are united. If thenatural parent feels that the stepparent has acted unjustly toward the child, the two adults should discuss the problem in private – not in front of the children.

Building a warm, loving family atmosphere in a stepfamily takes time and effort. As a stepparent you must show such qualities as empathy and understanding. Endeavour to communicate with the children. Play with them. Be their friend. Look for opportunities to spend time with them. Above all, show heartfelt love for all members of your new family. Then, your family, too, will be a success.