How To Be An Amazing Stepparent To School-Aged Children
The road to being a stepparent is not an easy one. You will face many challenges. These include but are not limited to family dynamic changes, scheduling conflicts, child support payments, and compromising with the exs’. Connecting with your stepchildren is the hardest. Even more, when you are being a stepparent to school-aged children.
Challenges of Being A Stepparent to School-Aged Children:
Divorce does not affect adults alone. Children too, bear the brunt of dissolving and forming new families. They have to come to terms with the absence of a parent, changes in routines, living arrangements, and many more. And these changes are perceived differently by children at different ages.
Research states that children between the ages of 9-15 years have more trouble adjusting to their new step parenting situation. They were more likely to feel sad, rejected, and betrayed by their parents for divorcing. They might also worry about their:
- Living environment: In event of changes to living arrangements, or the sale of the family home, children would have to adjust to being in a new environment. They would be away from the comfort of their home and will find it difficult to accept a place shared with you, their stepparent, as their own.
- Responsibilities and routines: Every family has designated roles and responsibilities for each family member, as well as a routine they follow. This structure is disrupted when you blend or form new families.
- Addressing stepparents: They will have difficulty deciding on how to address you. Unlike toddlers or preschoolers, school-aged children and older teens may be uncomfortable addressing you as ‘mom/dad.’ This hesitancy can stem from their anger or resentment towards you, or to avoid being disloyal to their bio-parent.
In fact, they would be less accepting of their step-parents, blaming them for their parents’ breakup or for being an obstacle to their reunion.
As a stepparent to school-aged children, you will find yourself constantly battling:
- Anger and resentment of your place in the new family. The child may never consider you a figure of authority and may try to undermine your authority over them.
- Their rejection of your attempts to build a family or connect with them.
As stepparents to school-aged children, be prepared to hear, ‘You’re not my parent!” a lot.
Stepparents to School-Aged Children: Red Flags:
The first step to being awesome stepparents to school-aged children is to be aware of your challenges and to understand the child. It can help you take measures to build a nurturing and positive relationship with them.
We’ve understood the challenges, now let’s learn about some potential red flags that can be your stepchild’s cry for help in adjusting to the new situation. These include:
- A sudden decline in academic performance.
- Disinterest and passive participation in social and extracurricular activities.
- Sudden mood fluctuations, between sadness, and anger.
- Being hostile and defensive with both you and their bio-parents.
How to be a stepparent to school-aged children?
Here are some suggestions to help you build a positive relationship with your step kids:
Be realistic: You can wish for things to be perfect, but chances are it won’t be. Be realistic and accept that things might proceed slowly. Understand and accept your challenges, and commit to connecting with each child. With time and effort, they will learn to accept, and even if not love, will learn to like you.
Give space: It’s easier to smoothen things with the younger ones. School-aged children, not so much. This is why it’s important to give kids space to acclimatize to the new changes, including you. Instead of pushing the child to form a relationship with you, give them the reins, allowing them to set the pace of the connection. This is especially true when children are adjusting to the dynamics of co-parenting.
Communicate: Communication includes both talking and listening. Be transparent, open, and share your thoughts and feelings. This will give kids a chance to understand you and will help you build a rapport with them. Over time, they may feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and lives with you.
Include kids in all family discussions. It will allow them to share their thoughts and feedback, as all decisions impact them too. It can also help makes them feel included as a part of the new family.
Be original: Try not to take the place of their bio-parents. Talk to your step kids and help them understand that you are not looking to replace or compete with their parents. You can be their friend, or confidante, or play any role depending on the child’s needs.
Let Your Actions Talk: Help kids understand that you are committed to them and love them. Your actions can help them feel secure and confident in you. Follow through your promises, and ensure that you are there for the family as required, pickup-drop off, at school recitals and sports matches. It will always be the little actions that count.
Set Boundaries: Every family has its set of do’s and don’ts with regards to chores, routines, and behavior. You should set yours too. Collaborate with the children to decide on rules acceptable to all. Remind kids that as a family, you’re all bound to follow the rules formed and that some behaviors will not be accepted.
Find Interests: Find a common ground and share your love for it with your step kids. Be it sports, arts, cooking, or even crafts, share your love for the same to help them maintain a positive attitude. While building your relationship, remember to be genuine in your attempts as kids are more perceptive than we give them credit.
Connect with the bio-parent: Set aside your differences and compromise with the parent for your stepchild’s greater good. You all want what is best for the children, so why not work on it together? Be it for schedules, routines, or disciplinary methods, try to communicate and set consistent rules and boundaries to give each child more stability and to help them grow confidently.
Building a blended family is never too difficult. Being a stepparent to school-aged children is no different from being a parent. It both takes your time, effort, and unconditional love. And slowly, but surely, you will become friends with your step kids.
Author: Sarah Joseph: An Occupational therapist, freelance content writer, and more importantly a stay-at-home mom, Sarah, like all other parents juggles her many roles. Her passion for writing combined with her professional expertise as an Occupational therapist (working with children with special needs) has helped her craft content specific to child health, wellness, and learning skills. At present, Sarah alternates her time between raising her two young children, and writing about what she knows best- children!