Being a stepparent is not easy. Once separated or divorced, biological parents are not romantically involved and do not see themselves as a couple beyond the parenting relationship. They do however see themselves as the primary parents in their child’s life. That doesn’t change.
So what happens when these parents develop a romantic relationship with another adult who then becomes part of the child’s life?
What of the relationship between a parent’s new romantic partner and that child? What of their role with that child? How is the new romantic partner received by the other biological parent? What of the views of all the adults involved? What of the age of the child and their experience of their biological parents and of the new romantic partner of a parent?
Being a good stepparent means having to navigate any issues arising from answering those questions.
It means having to determine one’s responsibility and span of authority. It may be one thing to be home for a child after school and felt to be quite another to care for the child independently for a few days if the biological parent is away. It is one thing to bear responsibility for meal preparation and yet another for major healthcare decisions.
Being a good stepparent then really means learning about boundaries and seeking to find an acceptable balance between numerous competing needs and views regarding the care, relationship and authority of the stepchild. This can be a fluid situation, one that may change over time depending on the quality of the relationships.
Being a good stepparent will require significant communication and accommodation to various needs and wants. It will also require the stepparent to have a healthy sense of self as well as respect for the views and interests of the biological parents.
The investment in time and flexibility shown by all can go a long way to providing the child a remarkably positive experience of cooperative adult behaviour as well as provide the child with a secure and loving environment.