Introducing a new partner who may be potential stepparent to your children requires great care and patience with the focus on helping children to adapt. As part of our weekly ’10 Ways to …’ series, here are our tips on managing this situation so that, in time, all members of the family can enjoy positive and supportive relationships.
10 Ways to Sensitive Integration of a Stepparent
- Be friends: Introduce your child to your new partner gently and slowly. Plan a fun activity for the family and bring your new partner along. Your partner may not love the child on first meeting, this is natural. Allow the relationship to develop and for both parties to become comfortable with each other.
- Talk with your child: Involve your child in your life. Tell them you have made a new special friend and that you would like them to get to know your child.
- Moving in: It is usually once a new partner moves in that they become a stepparent (not always through marriage as legally recognised). Involve children in this process. Talk in advance about what this will look like and how it may change current family life – be clear about the positives and the negatives.
- Talk about behaviour: When there are young children involved, the stepparent must be allowed to manage behaviour if they are being asked to care for the children. It is important to discuss your views on managing behaviour in advance and agree how to handle issues. Work with each other. Discuss parenting styles and how you were parented as a child. What do you want for your child and how can the stepparent support you to parent?
- 3 parents: Your child has two parents usually and may not feel they have room for a third. Be gentle in your approach. Don’t get into a situation whereby the child feels the biological parent is being replaced. Always respect the child’s feelings.
- Respect: Always respect the biological parent of the child and respect the role the child’s biological parent plays in their life. Do not encourage or permit the child to call a stepparent Dad or Mum. You are just creating confusion and disrespecting the other parent. Make sure to talk with the other biological parent about this new important person in your child’s life.
- Couple time: Remember you are a couple and not just parents. Take time out as a couple and also take time to talk about the challenges of parenting with another adult who is not the parent. It is hard for both of you. The stepparent may have to learn how to share you with your child and that you have to juggle meeting their needs and those of your child.
- Acknowledge: Both parties need to acknowledge that this may be hard for the child. They may find it hard to adapt to sharing their parent. Maybe they have been hurt in the past. Involve them. Talk about things in the home and plan changes together. Explore issues as they arise and find solutions together.
- Have fun: Do fun things together! Also allow both the parent and stepparent have one-to-one time with the child. This will help build the relationship for both parents and child.
- Trust: Trust each other. If you cannot trust your partner with your child then you need to think about what is happening. Take everything your child says seriously. They are not out to hurt you or break up a relationship. Hear them.
If you would like to talk about the issues above or have any other concerns or questions, our askonefamily lo-call helpline is available on 1890 662 212 and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s ’10 Ways to …’ is compiled by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly.
Coming soon: 10 Ways to Positively Maintaining Contact and 10 Ways to Effective Toilet Training.
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