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Guidelines for StepParents: Blended Families and Raising Kids

by Dore Frances, Ph.D., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Avoid competing with your partner's ex
It is easy to fall into the trap of competing with the children's biological parent. However, you are different people with different personalities, talents and values. This does not mean one of you is better, just that you are different. Watch out for out-spending a biological parent or being over indulgent.

You cannot buy children's affection or loyalty and attempts to do so will backfire. Develop some communication and respect with the children's other biological parent. An occasional telephone call or friendliness when you exchange the children can go a long way towards showing the children they can appreciate and love all of their parents.

Discipline carefully
Discipline causes the most problems for stepparents, as it does for biological parents. Responsibility for discipline needs to rest with the biological parent, especially early in the relationship.

A stepparent can play a great role as time goes by and relationships with the stepchildren grow. Discipline requires close communication between the biological parent and stepparent, and mutual support when one must discipline.

Your partner must make certain the children understand that you are in charge when he / she is not available.

Don't expect too much too soon
Love and relationships develop over time, especially between stepparents and stepchildren. Old relationships and conflicting feelings can slow the progress, so please be patient and remember that you have years to develop your relationship with the children.

Maintain a healthy relationship with your partner
This is critical to a satisfactory family life. This does not mean you and your partner will never disagree, especially about the children, however you need to resolve issues to keep your relationship alive and growing. You also need to make time to enjoy one another and balance the sacrifices each of you must make to provide for your family. It is critical that one adult does not consistently side with the children against the other adult, and equally important that you do not force your partner to choose between you and the children. Your partner may feel guilt or loss about the ending of the former family relationship.

Recognize that this is normal and allow your new relationships to develop in their own time.

Respect the differences between your histories and households
A stepparent joins a family with established traditions affecting everything from how people show affection to who gets to shower first. As the newcomer, you will probably have to do most of the adjusting at first. That does not mean you are not valued, just that habits re had to break and it is usually easier for one person to adjust than a whole group. Your new family will also share a history of common memories that do not include you.

Remember that you and the family are now creating new memories of which you are a part. More memories and traditions are created when the children spend time with their other biological parent. Tension can also be caused when there is differences in discipline, religion or values. The children may be confused or even reject your beliefs and standards which will be new to them. It is best to compromise and acceptance works best when that is not possible. The children need to understand that both sets of standards might be different, yet they must respect both.

Dore Frances, M.A., is an educational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
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Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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