Whether it’s a long-distance move, coping with a death in the family, or divorce, “put the children first” is the mantra we most often hear revolve around family changes. And why wouldn’t we? It is the children who are innocent in these situations yet are the most deeply affected, right? Even post-divorce, when the children have acclimated to their new routine, it is still of utmost importance to ensure that they stay well-adjusted and continue to thrive.
It stands to reason then that when one of their parents has remarried, the children must come first in order to maintain a successfully blended family. Not so fast! Many biological parents and their new spouses make the mistake of trying “too hard” to cater to the youngest members of their new family, and not hard enough to establish a normal routine and environment that fosters an organic blending of the new family unit.
Here are 3 things step-parents can do to create a positive environment for your step-children (as well as you and your spouse):
Discuss a parenting plan with your spouse
Even though you are not their biological parent, it is important that your step-children understand that you are a parental figure nonetheless, and your job is to love and care for them, as well as look out for their best interests. Take time to discuss things like curfews, phone time, and discipline with your spouse. This way, your step-children will be less tempted to take advantage of you, and you can be confident that you are getting their respect. This will also help you to avoid over-disciplining them, which may cause conflict between you, the kids, and your spouse.
Encourage one-on-one time between step-children and your spouse
It can be difficult for children to see their parents give romantic attention to someone new. It can make matters worse when they feel that their time with their parent is always encroached upon by their new spouse. While you should always plan family activities, you should also be mindful to make sure that the kids have adequate time alone with their parents too.
“But I want them to like me.” Of course, you do! It is not uncommon for new step-parents to go above and beyond (read: completely overboard) in trying to show their new step-children that they want to be a part of their lives. Gifts, money, and pricey excursions may buy you some temporary affection but won’t serve either you or your step-children in the long run. This can make it difficult to forge an organic bond in the long-run. As difficult as it may be, simply doing things like cooking their favorite meal, or asking them what they’d like to watch on TV, can go a lot farther.
Doing these things will not only create a normal familial environment, but it will also allow space for you and your spouse to enjoy your marriage. Your step-children have already been subject to one unhealthy relationship. Putting your marriage first will only make the bond between you and your spouse stronger, which will reflect greatly on the atmosphere in your home.
If your family is considering separation or divorce, and need someone to guide you through the process, Easterling Law is here. We have years of experience helping clients find direction when they feel lost in family turmoil. Call us at 980-272-1365 today for a confidential consultation and evaluation of your case.