Having a step parent is a very normal part of life for many children in Ireland today. Often children hear about step mothers in fairy tales and the picture painted is not one that would excite you. In order for children to have a good relationship with a step parent they need to be supported in the following ways:
- While it may not be your ideal situation that your child has a step parent, in order for them to feel safe and secure in the relationship you must give them permission to have a relationship with this person.
- Many parents can feel that a step parent may try to take over their role. This can lead to the parent fighting against the relationship and making life somewhat more difficult for their child. If you can be confident in your relationship with your child then there is no need to worry about anyone trying to take your place.
- Remember that children need adults and good positive relationships in their lives. The step parent, if allowed, can be a very supportive person for your child. If they are spending periods of time with this person then they need to be able to talk with them, share worries and seek support. The biological parent most likely won’t always be there, so the more people around to support your children the better.
- Try to form a relationship of respect with the step parent. It can be very hard for children to have a good relationship with someone they don’t see their parent engage positively with. Talk with your child’s other parent about how you can both take steps to ensure the relationship with the step parent is one based on respect. In the case of infidelity, this can be very difficult, but we must always try to think about the best interests of our children.
- Allow your child to talk about their time with the other parent and the step parent. Acknowledge what they do with your child. Try to say positive things about the step parent. By not talking about them at all you are very clearly letting your child know you have no time for them. Ask yourself, is this fair on your child considering they have to live with the step parent part of the time?
- It might be nice to arrange for all of the parents, step and biological to go out once or twice with the children. Blended families are a common feature in Irish society. Children can and do have wonderful experiences in blended families.
- As family life moves on after separation and step parents become a more permanent part of your child’s life try to accept them fully and acknowledge with your child the part that the step parent plays in their life.
- Remember the other parent may be the first one to introduce a step parent to your child, but in time you could also be with someone new. What type of relationship would you like your child to have with your new partner?
- If the step parent also has children, then your child has more to deal with. When sharing time with the other parent your child will need your support to explore how they want to engage with the other children who live with them. Is it okay for them to be good friends? They will need to learn the rules of sibling rivalry if they have not any biological siblings. They may also need support around sharing their parent with other children. This may be hard for them if they already feel they don’t have enough time with that parent.
- Good stable adult relationships are very valuable for your child to witness and be part of. It can offer your child great stability and help to build up their confidence. It is really good for children to see their parents in good positive relationships. Part of life is learning that not every relationship is good and not every relationship lasts forever but it should not stop you from engaging with people and giving new relationships a chance.
Next you might like to read: 10 Ways to Sensitive Integration of a Step Parent
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on this topic Tuesday 7 July from 11am-12pm in our NEW One Family Parenting Group which is a closed Facebook group (meaning that only members can read posts) that anyone can join. Post your questions and share your experiences.
Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and information on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.