Becoming a stepparent, as you probably know, is a really big task to take on. There are so many different things to consider and every single situation is very unique to the individual. Whether the biological parent is involved, custody has been decided or the parent’s communication has broken down, you will find yourself trying to focus on what is most important, and that’s the children involved. And of course, you will try to find yourself trying to find the best ways to care for your step children.
When it comes to caring for your step child, it can be a minefield, especially if you haven’t previously had children. Hopefully, we can help you be better prepared to make the experience the best for all parties involved.
Communication is a really vital thing when it comes to caring for children. Children are more simple than adults, but they have feelings, emotions, and might be going through a tough time if a step parent is put into the equation. You’ll need to make sure that you are communicating with the child – letting them know your boundaries and respecting theirs, but communication doesn’t just need to be happening with the child themselves, you will also need to communicate with the parents. Your partner and yourself need to be on the same page parenting-wise, so that you are making joint decisions and know how to consistently take care of the child. You will also need to communicate with your partner’s ex, as they will be parenting themselves. Children need consistency and that only happens through clear communication.
Pay attention to the little things
When you are integrating yourself into a family, you are bringing in a fresh set of eyes and experience when it comes to looking after children. You might be able to notice, with an outside perspective, if the child has any needs that aren’t being met. Though things might be hectic at first, it’s important to make sure you are paying attention to the child and that the child can come and talk to you about issues that are bothering them.
There might be small things, like noticing a child is squinting a lot to see or seems to have a bit of a reaction to various allergens. You’ll need to make sure that you, as a new parent for the child, are looking after them and ensuring they are being cared for as best as possible. Something to consider is finding out what food allergies your step kids may have. You can buy a kit to do your own home allergy test that will give you the opportunity to find out what allergens the kids may have.
This isn’t exclusive to food, as there are 1 in 10 kids in the UK that have some sort of allergy. From allergies to pollen, pet dander, and of course, food. It is so important to be prepared and know what to prevent, and what you should do in case your kids come into contact with the allergen.
Individual time with your step child
When it comes to integrating into a family, some new step parents can feel jealous of the bond their partner has with their child and as a result, might not want their partner to have alone time with the child. Alone time is essential – it’s a time when that child can bond well with their parents. You’ll need to allow the child to take up some of your partner’s time, so that they can have a healthy and happy relationship.
Along the same lines, you should also spend time with your step child, doing various activities together. These don’t need to be some huge task like going to Disney World. Something as simple as taking them grocery shopping on their own, sitting together on hammocks for a chat, or spending some time drawing with them will build one on one bonds and memories and is a great way to care for your step children and their emotional needs.
Take things slow
When it comes to being a part of your step child’s life, many step parents wonder when they will start to love you and when you will start to love them. Love and bonds do develop over time, and it takes time for them to become strong. You will need to do your best to not rush children, as they might still be dealing with the grieving process of their parent’s not being together. You’ll need to be there for them, while also giving them room to understand their own feelings and get to know you. Often, children will also act out of emotions, so it’s best to not take anything too personally at the start of a relationship. Kids might act out towards the start or say things they don’t mean, as a way of dealing with their own emotions.
Take care of yourself
If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of a child. Though you aren’t replacing their parents or going to care for your step children all on your own, it’s still a big commitment and something that will change your life. You will need to look after yourself, understand your own feelings and boundaries, and take care of yourself in order to best take care of them. It’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to not make big decisions or decisions you aren’t comfortable with. And it’s okay to have your own input on how this child is raised. You are, after all, a parent now.
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Good luck in your parenting journey!