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Blending Families: Surviving the Step-Parent Role 
 
by Jami Cameron May 19, 2005

  • Have weekly or monthly family meetings. Set a family meeting schedule right away. This allows the family to discuss upcoming activities that need to be recorded on the family calendar, as well as give their thoughts and feelings regarding discipline or any other circumstance/situation in the home. While you and your spouse are the authority figures in the house, it doesn't hurt to create a democratic environment where the children feel like they play an important role in the family too.

  • Don’t let the child spend all their time with the biological parent. Take interest in your step-child’s life. If your husband has an errand to run, but the child needs to go to a ball game, take him/her yourself. This gives you one on one time to discuss everyday life, upcoming activities, feelings and thoughts. Spending time together is the only way you will build your relationship, and the child will begin to understand that you do love and care about them.

  • Don’t fall into the “ghost-parent” trap. When “You’re not my mother!” is popping out of a child’s mouth, it is easy to turn up your hands and let the other parent deal with it. This is a mistake. While you may not be the child’s biological parent, you are his parent regardless. You are a part of the family, whether they like it or not, and you must uphold the child to the same standards as you would your own children. Don’t allow your spouse’s child to be immune to rules while you are responsible for him. This will ruin your credibility, let the child think you are weak and will cause a rift with your own children. If the child refuses to listen, avoid backing down. You are in charge, and if you act that way, they will soon respond the way you want them to.

 

  • Have family time. A new family is hard for all involved. Be sure to take time out from the day to day, rushed life and do something fun. Have game night, take walks, go to the movies – do anything where everyone in the family will have conversation and fun at the same time. You will be surprised at how attitudes can change just by taking an interest in everyone collectively.

  • Say I love you. Sometimes you may have to grit your teeth because of the day you had with the step-child, but you need to say "I love you" at least once a day. At first, you may hear “No you don’t,” or “I don’t care,” but as time moves on, they will begin to see that you do, in fact, love them. This is very important – children of divorced families often feel like they are the reason why their parents divorced. We may know otherwise, but they can oftentimes feel hated, especially if it was a bitter divorce. You need to reassure the child that they are loved a lot, and always will be.

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