Supporting a step parent relationship150x150

Parenting | 10 Ways to Support a Child in a Step Parent Relationship

Supporting a step parent relationship250x250Having 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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?
  9. 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.
  10. 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




10 Ways to Nurture Your Role as a Stepparent

HandsThis week as part of our ongoing ’10 Ways to’ parenting tips series, we explore stepparenting. Television shows like The Brady Bunch or Modern Family might make it seem as though it’s pretty much all plain sailing but this is usually not the case. Being a stepparent can be a very difficult role within the family. The level of complexity it brings to the family and the individual is often underestimated by every family member. However, with patience and commitment, the rewards can be immense. Read on for our advice for stepparents on this important role.

  1. If you are the stepparent, talk with your partner about parenting. Understand very clearly how they parent and why they do it this way. Before you can actively start to support the parenting of their children, you need to agree together on the style of parenting which is comfortable for you both.
  2. Talk with your partner about his/her children and the role s/he wants as a parent of them. It is very important to accept that children are not going anywhere; can you have a relationship with your partner and his/her children, are you ready for the challenge? Are you ready to share this person with other very important people, their children? Are you ready and aware that your partner will always have to maintain a relationship with their child’s other biological parent?
  3. Talk with the children about the type of relationship they would like to have with you. If children are quite young, then you will most likely have to be an active stepparent when they are in your care and that of their biological parent.
  4. Explore with children what this will be like for them. You will most likely be moving from being their friend who does not interfere to a new active parenting role. Children can be very confused by this.  Explore feelings for everyone in the family. Talk with children and with each other about the challenges.
  5. Having family meetings can be key to a happy home. Involve children in planning, talk with them about issues and problems. Enable them to have a voice and a part in implementing new ways of living together.
  6. Children don’t like having too many people tell them what they can and cannot do. Talk with children about respect for everyone in the family and set ground rules around respect for each family member.
  7. Children can be very lucky to have a stepparent, another person who is there for them to support them and help them through the challenges of childhood.  However, building a very close relationship with the child will take time so you will need to put effort into this. Children may or may not naturally like you. You may or may not like them initially. Bonds take time to develop. Be realistic and always be patient.
  8. It is usually very important for the stepparent to understand and empathise with the other biological parent. Try to understand what it is like for him or her. Appreciate what it is like for them having a stepparent with their children. Do you know their style of parenting, can you talk with them about the children to help you understand each child and how they respond to discipline? Respect the child’s other parent always and value their role as the biological parent of your stepchildren.
  9. If all three parents can sit together a couple of times a year and talk about the children, what each person’s role is and how the children are coping with living within a stepparent family, everyone will benefit. Remember that children are central to harmony and the focus is on keeping them at the centre of parenting. If children are happy, then usually parents are happy.
  10. If you are not happy in your role as a stepparent, then you need to start talking. Are you confused about your role? You may not be a parent already and now you have children who already have two parents whom you have to try and understand and parent also. This is very challenging. You should not think it is easy, it will be a constant challenge, so allow yourself opportunities to discuss your concerns with a close friend. You can also seek professional support. It can be very helpful to take a parenting course so you can learn some key skills and insight into children, and how to identify their needs. Hopefully with your partner’s support, you can meet each child’s needs as well as your own.

Next you might like to read 10 Ways to Sensitive Integration of a Stepparent.

This article is part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips, and is by One Family’s Director of Children and Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly. Coming soon:  10 Ways to Make Christmas Stress Free and 10 Ways to Create Family Traditions at Christmas.

LIVE Facebook Q&A with Geraldine on stepparenting on Monday 15 December from 11am-12pm on One Family’s Facebook page. Join in and post your question.

Find out more about our parenting skills programmes and parent supports. For support and advice on these or any related topics, call askonefamily on lo-call 1890 66 22 12 or email