“When it’s just the two of us, we have a great relationship. Add the kids to the mix and that’s when we have problems.” Can you relate?
Remarriage with kids can be very difficult to say the least. Birth parent and child do things a certain way. They understand each other. They know what is expected of each other and have a relationship that works for them. They have history together. But then you bring in the new spouse who is also a new stepparent and they may be surprised to find that you don’t do things the way they do or think you should do them. They don’t understand why you are not more firm or perhaps in some cases more lenient with your child. They do things certain ways and expect the house to be run a particular way. But it’s not the way you have done it and it’s not what your child is used to. The stepparent wants the house run the way they think it should be run and you want to continue running your home the way you’ve always done it. You will have to learn to compromise and let some of the smaller stuff go.
At first, the differences may seem insignificant. But as you settle into your new life, they become more important. Discipline styles may become an issue if you have different approaches and values.
There is no other challenge greater to stepfamily success than the ability of the couple to parent from the start as a team. Stepparents must join the birth parent in raising their child, they need to find their role and not take liberty in crossing boundaries. They need to know their limits in authority and receive their power from the birth parent so they can contribute in parental leadership, guidance and later on friendship with the grown child.
Enforcing rules without having an established relationship cause resentment and anger in the child. What I mean by an established relationship is one where the child knows you like them and you have earned their respect. Taking the time to develop a relationship with your stepchild is crucial to the family. Not only will the stepparent and child benefit but also your marriage will benefit. So for the sake of your marriage, if for no other reason, try to figure out a way to develop a good relationship with your stepchild. Your spouse will love you for it. But of course don’t force the child beyond what they are comfortable with. Some kids on a scale of 1 – 10 may really want a relationship with their stepparent while other kids do not. This can be due to a variety of reasons such as a fear that if they like their new stepparent they are somehow being disloyal to their birth parent.
On an earlier blog I described the five different types of parenting styles. You can listen to them on my podcast called “Parenting Styles” at e2mediannetwork.com or read them here at my website (to help determine what kind of style you and your spouse are).
Before you are remarried, it’s very helpful to discuss how you parent, what your expectations are for your new spouses role in parenting with you , and what the new stepparents expectations for their role are in the new family unit. It makes life easier for all to come to an agreement before you enter into the new roles. If you didn’t get to do this with a coach, it’s not too late. I am available to assist you to find a satisfying agreement. Often times what we perceive as a stepparent/child problem is actually a couple issue. If the couple can be in agreement and walk together in unity, especially as it relates to the kids, the whole family will benefit.
If the stepparent/child relationship doesn’t work and the stepparent has tried everything they know to do and have sought help and can honestly say they have done their best to “win the child over”, then all of the blame cannot be heaped upon them. There are kids that simply refuse to accept their stepparent and they are happy to let everyone know it. So, you can’t make them accept their stepparent but you can expect and enforce respectful behavior to their stepparent. They do not get to disrespect their stepparent, period. The birth parent needs to implement and enforce this rule.
Unity in parenting…Psalm 133 says “How good and pleasant it is when brother’s (or people) live together in unity! For there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore”. If you can get on the same page with your spouse in parenting, everyone will benefit.