Being a stepmother is a huge honor and one that comes with many rewards. Since becoming a stepmom myself, I’ve learned that the role also comes with many challenges, including the children not being so accepting of the new arrangements. My journey through stepmotherhood has been very trying at times, especially in the early stages. To help women like myself, I’ve come up with ten valuable lessons to becoming a successful stepmother that I believe have helped shaped me into the person my stepson is proud to call his stepmommy.
1. Treat your stepchildren’s father with respect.
I consider this the cardinal rule of stepmotherhood. How you treat their father is among the most important things your stepchildren will observe. If you’re disrespectful toward him, they’ll almost certainly and immediately dislike you. Show him respect, kindness, and support and they’ll be happy to see their father being treated the way he deserves.
2. Be civil with the child’s mother.
Although it may not always be the easiest thing in the world, being cordial with your stepchildren’s mother is in everyone’s best interest. The kids want to see you show the same level of respect toward their mother as you do their father. Also, your goal is to co-parent and, in order to do that, you need to be open to communicating with the other party, and doing so respectfully.
3. Refrain from talking negatively about your stepchildren’s mother.
What you say about their mother behind closed doors and in front of the children is just as wrong as being disrespectful directly to her face. Kids hear much more than you think they do. Choose your words carefully and, even in moments of anger and frustration, refrain from using any insults or offering your opinion when it is not needed.
4. Do not try to be “mom”.
If the children’s mother is still an active parent, don’t attempt to be a second mom. Know your place and set appropriate boundaries. Leave the bulk of the work to the biological parents and step in as a parent when asked to. If the circumstances are different, though, and you are the child’s only mother figure, do not force the child to look at you as “mom”. Let them know, however, that they are more than welcome to refer to you as their mother and that you would be honored to be called “mom”.
5. Don’t expect your stepchildren to grasp the stepmother concept overnight.
Understanding and accepting a new and unfamiliar situation like this one can often be very challenging for a child. They not only have to accept that their father is with a new woman but they usually must also have to accept new living arrangements, new rules, and an additional parent figure. Children may display their confusion and frustration as anger toward their stepmother, and this may go on for much longer than you ever anticipated. While it may have you second-guessing your ability to be a stepmom, be persistent. It takes time but you will be rewarded for your efforts.
6. Do not treat your stepchildren differently from your biological children or different in any other way.
Show pride in what your stepchildren do in the same way you would if they were your own children. You should be paying every child the same amount of attention and disciplining each child in the same manner. It is also crucial that you don’t take your anger toward the children’s mother out on the children themselves. They did not ask to be put in the position they are in and they can not be held accountable for their mother’s actions.
7. Be involved in the child’s life.
Attend games and school plays, help with homework, teach them a new hobby, take them to the park. The more involved you are, the more you’ll be able to bond with them and prove how much you care.
8. Don’t get involved in your spouse’s feuds with his ex.
Joining in on the bad-mouthing and mud-slinging is a recipe for disaster. I did this in the beginning of my relationship and it only had negative consequences. As much as you’d like to defend your husband and speak your mind, doing so when there are children involved is a big no-no. Keep your distance, avoid being lured in, and remain quiet. By not involving yourself, you’re putting the children first and that is what’s most important.
9. Engage in fun activities with your stepchildren.
It’s a challenging time for everyone involved so lighten the mood a little and show off your fun side. Invite the children to be silly, dance, laugh, get messy. Life doesn’t always have to be so serious and, if they see you are more than just their daddy’s new wife and that you are someone they can have fun with, they should find it easier to accept the new arrangements.
10. Don’t be argumentative with your stepchildren.
Stepmothers can especially relate with this if their stepchildren are older and more aware and outspoken. It’s important to let the children speak their minds and ask questions and it is just as important for you to listen to what they have to say and answer what you can. You may not always be spoken to the way you should be but it is not your place to tell them that. If you think their behavior is out of line, confront your spouse about it, not the children themselves.