Stepping over the boundaries…
Being a Stepmum or Dad can be very hard work. And a newly formed family can mean new demands on time, new rules and new restrictions. Above all else, remember that the children had no choice when it came to their new family – it was forced upon them, and wasn’t necessarily what they wanted. Now it’s up to all of you to make the best of it.
A new family set-up brings its own problems. But if a child persistently misbehaves, you’ll have to do something about it.
“Discipline should be down to the birth-parent if possible,” says Relate counsellor Paula Hall. “And if that can’t happen, you have to make sure that both adults in the house speak to the child together so that he can see a common front exists.”
Paula suggests some keys to maintaining discipline:
1) No overt favouritism: children are very hot on things being fair.
2) Be united: children need to know that the adults support each other, even on difficult decisions.
3) Be consistent
4) Be patient: it will take time for everyone to adjust
5) Have household rules which apply to everyone: children will know what’s expected of them, even when they are only visiting for a weekend.
6) Spend time with your kids on your own: let them know they are still special to you and haven’t been “replaced.”
7) Don’t spoil a child: even if you feel guilty about breaking up his family.
It’s also important to try to stay calm – even if a child tries to rile you by reminding you that you’re not actually his parent. You could agree “Yes, I’m not your parent.” But add that this doesn’t mean he is allowed not to follow house rules.
Don’t worry if different rules apply at the other birth parent’s house. Children are good at adapting, and as long as there is consistency – that they understand what applies where, they should be fine.
It’s not personal…….
Children often misbehave because their family has split up. Because of this, they may act dreadfully around a new step-mum or step-dad. However hard it may be to accept, this is often not personal. And over time, a new special relationship may begin.
“You’re introducing two strangers who are going to share a house,” says Suzie Hayman, spokesperson for Parentline Plus and author of Stepfamilies: surviving and thriving in a new family. “If you don’t force it, it’s likely to grow. If may seem like the child dislikes the new partner, but it may be that they dislike the situation.”