Often being a parent can be a difficult task and does not signify the end of the adult's life. It is a continuous learning process. Being a stepparent is more daunting a task because a stepparent has to make a place for himself in the child's heart. Here are some guidelines to help you in being a good stepparent.
Wicked or not?
A small word like "step" put before the word "father" or "mother" can reverse all the positive connotations associated with parents in most people's minds. Most of us have grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales that have made the 'cruel stepmother' an icon in her own right. But does that really mean that step-parents are mean and vicious and couldn't possibly love children that are not of their own blood? It may surprise you to know that often step-parents are the victims rather than the villains.
It's no cakewalk
Just put yourselves in their shoes for a minute. They are the outsiders who have to find a place for themselves in the charmed circle known as the family. It's not easy. They have to battle the preconceived notions encouraged by rumour, myth and fairytales. Besides that, they have to prove that they can make the grade despite the fact that they don't share the same blood.
Step-parents are expected to fulfil all the parental obligations and responsibilities without being given the right to enjoy all the privileges and authority of a parent. They are constantly reminded by their step-children, their own spouses and the ex-spouses, both wittingly and unwittingly, that they are not the children's 'real' parents. It is difficult enough building relationships with people, but trying to step into the shoes of a parent when the children are at best indifferent and at worst downright hostile, can be a truly uphill task.
Step-parents are often in such a rush to establish themselves as parents and become part of the family that they do too much too quickly. So worried are they that they will be relegated to the backseat when it comes to parenting, that they can be overeager in their attempts to establish their parental authority. They become like bulls in a china shop, an approach that can only misfire. They enthusiastically begin to lay down the law and impose their own disciplinary rules. They forget that most people, and especially children in such a situation, are resistant to change. They will stubbornly cling onto the old dos and don'ts as it gives them a sense of familiarity and security. Step-parents need to ease into their parenting roles, not blunder in.
Step-parents who think that they can get away with telling their stepchildren what they can or can't do on day one itself are bound to find their endeavours summarily rejected. What usually happens then is that they take this rejection badly and back off to the other extreme. They decide that there is no point beating their head against a brick wall and either become excessively compliant to the children's demands or defer to their spouses on all parenting decisions.
Accepting second place
It is imperative that stepparents receive the unstinting support of their spouses. If the spouses are awkward about allowing them to step into the parenting role, it will be even more difficult to convince the children that stepparents are for real.
Stepparents should banish the thought from their minds that they deserve to be 'second-rate parents' merely because the children are not of their blood. Parenting is much more than the mating of a sperm and an egg. Modern science has made the latter almost incidental to parenthood. Being a parent is a lifelong commitment and stepparents have no hope of succeeding if they don't first learn to tell themselves that they deserve all the rights and privileges of being a parents and not just the duties.