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Step Parents Frequently Find That It Is Hard To Share Authority

Aug 22, 2008
Step parenting normally brings its own special problems as the new step parent finds himself or herself caught in the middle between the children and the biological parent. Exactly how much difficulty you will run into depends upon a large variety of factors, the most important of which will be the amount of co-operation you receive from the biological parent and the ages of the children.

The answer to step parenting success lies first in clearly determining your role with the biological parent as you will certainly have an uphill battle if the two of you are not totally in agreement from the outset. With any changes in a relationship however you also have to realize that adjustments will take time and you need to adopt a 'step by step' approach. Any attempt to hurry things, or to push the situation, will unquestionably result in frustration if not confrontation. The biological parent may well feel threatened by the requirement to share parenting responsibilities and will need time to adjust and to acquire confidence and trust in you as a parent to his or her children.

Next, you will clearly need to establish your role with the children who, unless they are quite young, will generally resent the intrusion of an 'outsider'. You will need to take things very slowly and understand that the children are going to need time to get used to the situation before they accept you as a parent. Once more, you will have to have the help of the biological parent in cementing your relationship with the children.

A successful transition into step parenting must start with a clear and frank conversation with the biological parent, during which each party need to talk freely and honestly about how they see their role, and that of the other party, and you must both reach a clear agreement on just how you ought to share parenting responsibilities. This conversation also has to set clear boundaries but need to be flexible enough to allow for adjustment, particularly in the critical first few weeks and months after the establishment of this new relationship.

This initial conversation will not of course be the end of the matter and several such discussions will have to take place before any really meaningful and lasting change in parenting responsibilities can take place.

Have reached agreement the next step in the process is to get the children on board and this must initially be led by the biological parent. At a suitable time the family should all sit down together and the biological parent has got to start a discussion in which the plan that you have come up with can be revealed to the children and then discussed with them.

At this point it is important to emphasize that this needs to be a real discussion and not merely a matter of the parents 'laying down the law' to the children. It is vitally important that the children have a say in to the conversation and that their thoughts and views on what you have agreed are listened to. Children, just like adults, must be permitted to have a feeling of control over their own lives and need to feel comfortable with the situationthey find themselves in. This is not to say that the children must be given control over the situation, which should remain firmly in the parents' hands as the final decision makers, but, every effort has to be made to make sure that they understand the situation and that they are as happy with it as is they can be.

The mere fact that the children can see that their parents have obviously considered the position very carefully, and agree about it, will do a great deal to stop the children from playing one parent off against the other and the fact that they are included in the process will also assist considerably in getting them on board.

Coming into a household as a step parent can be hard for not only the step parent but also for the biological parent and the children and all parties will need to work together carefully and take their time to create an environment in which everyone is able to live happily together.
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