Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to not Look Like You're Trying to Replace their BioMom, Part I

I mentioned before that I’d signed up for a step-parenting newsletter. I was a bit suspicious when I read this installment:

“You are not the parent . . . Making attempts to take the place of your stepchild’s biological parent, no matter how little contact the child has with him or her, will likely backfire. That’s what David Caldwell, a 52-year-old father of two stepchildren and three biological children in San Francisco, learned when he married his wife.‘The main thing is not to overreach,’ he says. ‘I had to remind myself that the kids already had a father. No matter how little he was around, I needed to respect his position.’”
I agree and disagree. I agree that the role of a step-parent is not to replace a biological parent. Our place is not to convince our stepchildren that their biological parents never existed or that our relationship with them is better than the one they have with their parents.

At the same time, though, I believe that being able to be a parent in your own home—that is, to be an equal partner with your spouse, to set rules in your house, to show your stepchildren love and support, and to discipline them when necessary—is crucial for many stepmothers to be happy.

The question becomes, then, how do you parent your stepchildren without acting like you’re trying to replace their biological parent? I’m going to be doing some additional research about this during the week, but here are my initial conclusions:

First, don’t try and replicate the life they have with their biological parent. You might think that you’re doing them a favor by doing everything the way their mother does it—after all, that’s what they’re used to, right? If you do this too much, though, your stepkids are going to interpret this as you trying to take over for their mother.

Next, don’t make any kind of negative comments about their biological mother or the quality of the relationship they have with her. Besides hurting their feelings, this is going to make your stepchildren think that you’re trying to show them that you’d make a better mother to them than her.

More to come next post.

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