Article written by Gary Direnfeld
As we let go of 2023 and fully embrace 2024, many people find themselves adapting to the changes that came with their "clean slate." For a split household, these changes may not just impact you, but rather the entire family. This is especially true when new partners are involved. So, how does your family adjust to adding a stepparent to the mix? Keep reading to learn how you can use the new year to establish new family dynamics.
New Year, New Rules:
When parents split, it is normal that they will eventually start new relationships. When these partners become an official part of your family, the associated changes can be overwhelming. In an ideal world, over time the new stepparent will fit seamlessly into your everyday lives. But that doesn't mean there won't be some hurdles as everyone adjusts.
For example, a new stepparent may also have kids of their own. Depending on the age and gender of the kids, this can be anything from a joy to a disaster. It may involve your children giving up some of their privacy to share a room with a new brother or sister. But it also might mean a new friend to keep them company at home.
Authority also needs to be addressed when bringing a stepparent into the family. Who is in charge of whom? When and for what? If you and your partner share authority, you might find the children reject the say of their stepparent. This especially happens when kids haven't fully adjusted or accepted this person in their life. Parents have to recognize and accept that just because you love your new partner, it doesn’t mean your child has to love them. At least not right away.
Dos and Don'ts of a New Stepparent:
Establishing new family dynamics isn't an event. Instead, it is a process over time. To facilitate the process, there are some dos and don'ts.
- Don't think you can rush. It takes time to get to know one another and sort out the finer details of your blended family life.
- Don't expect your child to love their new stepparent just because you do. Instead, focus on everyone getting along.
- Don't think that just because you may grant a stepparent authority to discipline or set expectations with your child that your child will accept it. Although they are another adult in the home, it should still remain the parent who addresses the needs, expectations and behaviour of their child.
- Do allow time before co-habiting to allow for your child's emotional adjustment. A new partner can dash the unspoken fantasy of parents reuniting.
- Do discuss changes before they occur. Understanding your child's concerns, you may be in a better position to address them ahead of time to facilitate a smoother transition.
- Do discuss with your new partner expectations of each other with regard to the care of the other's children. Do so with an eye to clear boundaries and roles.
Just remember, we are glad you have found the love and happiness you deserve in this new relationship. However, you aren't the only one who has to adjust to these new family dynamics. Make sure to approach the situation with caution and much preparation in order to ease the transition as much as possible. Sometimes slower is faster and meeting the needs of all children involved will make for more peaceful coexistence for everyone.