by Shadra Bruce

Becoming a stepparent can be as nerve-wracking as becoming a parent for the first time. It’s not much different: there are expectations, a role to be performed, and a child’s life influenced by your decisions, actions, and behaviors. Unfortunately, when we aren’t with a child from the day he or she is born, we often don’t feel the same connection or sense of responsibility. In fact, it happens quite often that we see our stepchildren in an adversarial way: they are what stand between us and the man or woman with whom we want to share our lives.

Being a good spouse and partner to the person you love, however, means being a good stepparent to your spouse’s children.  It’s not easy – you are the interloper, the ultimate symbol of the dashed hopes of a child who wants his parents to reunite, the reason everything is changing. It takes a great deal of strength to become a good stepparent.

Being a good stepparent starts with letting go of the adversarial view that you might have of the children. The child is not the enemy, the wall between you and your spouse, or the excuse for failure. Get to know the kids. Talk to them about how you feel about their parent and be open with them about your own insecurities. Respect them as people. Even if you and your stepchildren have had a rough start or years of difficulty, it’s not too late to recognize the value of developing a healthy relationship with each other. Imagine the joy your spouse will feel at not being torn between you.

Being a good stepparent also means treating both the stepchild and his or her biological parents with respect. This is not always easy – often, there are valid reasons why divorce happened in the first place and it can be difficult to remain silent about the more negative aspects of the biological parent you replaced. Bite your tongue. Don’t show disrespect about your stepchild’s parents; vent to a friend or family member if you have to, but recognize that your stepchild’s very identity is shaped in some part by their biology, and your lack of respect affects them.

In the end, it’s simple: you love your spouse; your spouse loves his or her children. The better the relationship you have with your stepchildren, the stronger your blended family can be. Being a good stepparent can have a lasting impact on your life and theirs.

Have you read Shadra’ s book, Stories From a StepMom, available on Amazon Kindle? Read more or request a review copy.