Advice Column, Parenting


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You fall in love with the perfect person; he is everything you want from a life partner. Sure he has a couple of kids, but that’s no big deal…right?


Raising step-children is not an easy task. So many aspects complicate the situation. Take roles for example; his kids already have a mother…so where do you fit in? Are you a friend, a parent, an outsider…?

Expectations also play a huge role here: In your perfect world, you and your partner will function as a unit, with regards to disciplining, parenting and laying down the law.

Here are a few questions regarding raising step-children:

Is there any way one can prepare for step-parenting

You can very definitely be more prepared for raising step-children. There is a lot of information available out there on the topic, so you can definitely read up about it quite a bit. Also you and your partner can help each other prepare for this new way of life, by making sure that you discuss your parenting plan together, making sure that expectations are similar and that you’re both on the same page regarding discipline or rules and so forth.

Family counselling is also a good idea, so that you’re sure that you start off with the right foundation and expectations.

Some step-parents tend to resort to “buying” the children’s love to make peace (if the kids are not fond of them). Is this advisable?

There is nothing wrong with buying someone you care for a gift, but if your intention is to win favour with someone, this is not a good way of going about it; even more so if it’s a child, because you are going to make life quite difficult for yourself. The child could learn very quickly that he/she can manipulate you into buying stuff.

Another problem here is; the child might have a totally different love language than giving gifts. In other words, the getting stuff might very well fall short and the child might not experience the love you are trying to show.

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
  • Quality time
  • Gifts

So it’s therefore very important to focus on rather building a stable relationship with the child, step by step.

Does affection develop over time? 

Very much so, yes. Remember that divorce is a very huge thing, even for us as adults, so imagine how a child might be experiencing this. Now mom or dad have someone new in their life, often times with other kids coming into the picture as well. This is huge and scary and there is a lot of uncertainty and insecurity surrounding this whole situation.

It would be naive to think that everything is going to be great from the start. Give the child time to get to terms with all of this, and let the child set the pace.

 What can I do as a parent to ensure that step – siblings get along?

  • Number one in my opinion is to make sure that you as parents treat every person in the household in the same respectful manner.
  • Secondly; be an example of what healthy and effective communication is; talk emotions rather than issues, listen intently, with the goal to understand each of the children if they come to you with a problem.
  • Don’t choose sides and focus on a solution to the problem, rather than falling into the trap of playing the blame game

 In your opinion, what are some on the biggest “DON’T’s” when it comes to raising step-children?

  • Don’t try and be a buddy or a friend,
  • Don’t try to replace the child’s biological parent.
  • Don’t come in to hard or strong in the beginning, give the child some room to get used to the whole situation
  • Don’t discipline your partner’s child, especially not in the beginning, you are not the parent so leave that to your partner.

How do you build a solid relationship with your step-children?

Remember again that building this relationship will take some time, so be patient. My suggestion would be to start off by simply observing and getting to know the child. Find out what his/her interests are and find something that you can do together. If you show interest and support and a willingness to try building the relationship, most children do come around, even though it might take some time.


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