Everyone thinks they know everything about parenting — until they become parents themselves. The gap between reality and expectation can be dangerously wide.
Some children are open and inviting to new stepparents, but others spew out not-so-nice commentary like, “you’re not my mom/dad.” Here are some helpful tips to help you navigate the difficult journey of creating a blended family.
1. Know Your Limitations
One of the biggest challenges is overcoming limiting beliefs. These are negative thoughts that hold you back from doing and being your best. To overcome them, you need to be aware of them and consciously challenge them. This can be done by analyzing limiting thoughts and asking yourself whether they are based on facts or falsehoods. You can also take action toward a big dream to show yourself that you can break out of your prison cell and live your best life.
It’s important to remember that it takes time to bond with children. If you try to rush it, you can create resentment. Also, it’s important to find a parenting style that works for both you and your spouse. This will avoid conflict and frustration.
2. Don’t Set the Bar Impossibly High
When it comes to parenting, there is always a lot to learn. The good news is that you don’t have to do it all at once. Whether you’re working on your patience or teaching your kids how to be safe online, baby steps are still steps in the right direction.
Step-parenting can feel overwhelming when you first get started. The key is to have realistic expectations and be willing to take it slow. You’ll need to set boundaries from the beginning but don’t go overboard with it. It takes time for blended families to fall into a rhythm, and you’ll need to be patient until that happens. Trying to do everything at once could be a recipe for disaster. Start with small requests and build up from there (like setting the table for dinner, instead of cooking a full meal). Set goals that are attainable and achievable.
3. Be Open-Minded
Everyone thinks they know everything – until they actually become parents. If you have never parented before, it might be necessary to seek out advice from others to help you navigate your new role.
One aspect of being open-minded is a willingness to search actively for evidence against your favored beliefs and plans, and then weigh that evidence fairly when it is available. It also involves being empathetic to people with opposing viewpoints.
Try to be more open-minded on difficult topics such as the current political tumult or social issues, Borba says. This can be challenging, but a more optimistic attitude can help you stay strong in these tough situations. If you need to criticize, make sure your words are gentle and compassionate. Verbal blows can hurt just as much as physical ones.
4. Learn to Adapt
Children will always be the most challenging element of any family. They may not welcome a new person into their lives right away, especially when they have a strong bond with someone else already.
Step-parents must learn to respect that bond and let it develop organically. They also need to be flexible about rules, traditions and routines in the home to keep everyone happy.
If the parents can’t agree on a parenting style, it’s best to find common ground and settle on something that works (or at least doesn’t hurt anyone). This will help prevent the kids from becoming confused and frustrated about their new situation. It’s also important to remember that change is the only constant in life. Learning to adapt to changes will help you stay engaged in both your personal and professional growth.