Stepmom or Stepmonster? Marrying a Man With Kids
1. Have Patience.
Relationships take time to build, so you can’t expect to be one big happy family overnight. A child may look at you as an ‘intruder’ or the ‘enemy’ right from the start – especially if they are very close to their biological mother and think you are trying to replace her. Most kids, no matter their age, want their biological parents to be together and will rebel against any newcomers. All you can do is try to create a warm, positive environment for the child and hope that time takes care of the rest.
2. Be Yourself.
Speaking of trying to replace their biological mother – DON’T DO IT. If she’s in the picture, you will never, EVER, be their mother (sorry, but it’s true), so don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Let the child get to know YOU and develop your own personal rapport with him or her. Don’t try to bribe, trick or cajole a child into liking you, because kids can smell a fake a mile away. Being genuine and sincere with them is the only way you’ll be able to gain their trust and respect. They already have a mother, you just be you.
3. Leave Discipline (for the most part) to the Father.
These are not your children, and although they should respect you, discipline should be left to the children’s biological parents until the children trust you and are comfortable with you. Some men may say that you have the authority to spank or give their child a time out, especially if the child lives with you both. But take caution with that, because that can go left really quickly since most parents don’t do well with other people laying hands on their child. He may love and trust you, but the child’s mother may go off on ANY woman disciplining her child. Your job is to enforce the rules you all come up with, so a discussion on each person’s role is essential so that you don’t overstep your boundaries. The child should, however, ALWAYS respect you; and your man should be fair and consistent in regulating this so that you don’t feel like the evil stepmother.
4. Be Civil With the Child’s Mother.
I know this may seem easier said than done, but try (as hard as humanly possible) to get along with your stepchild’s mother. A child’s mother is usually his pulse to the world, so if you get along with her, then the child will benefit and it will hopefully make the transition that much easier. I’m not saying you have to go on weekly shopping trips to the mall or go for coffee every Wednesday, but if you must come in contact with the mother, be cordial. Not all women are catty or petty, so this may not be difficult to do at all. But if the relationship between you and your man and the mother is strained for whatever reason, then avoid contact if folks can’t be civil. The child shouldn’t feel any stress as it relates to you both or feel caught in the middle. Be a grown-up, and be the bigger woman. And by all means, never talk reckless about the biological mother to the child. That will only hurt, not help.
5. Make Time for the Child.
If you don’t like to be around children, then you probably should not date a man with a child. But even if you DO like children, it can still be difficult to open yourself up to a child who isn’t yours and make yourself available to them. Some kids may push you away and not want you all up in their world, especially if they’re teenagers. But younger children may want your attention in order to feel you out and get to know you. I’m not one to force myself on a child, but start slowly and build from there. Ask him or her about school, or ask them how their sports are going (if they’re involved). Show an interest in their activities and friends, and just listen if they want to talk to you. And if they don’t open up to you, fall back a little bit until it happens organically. Since you are the adult, you have to earn their trust and respect – so just make yourself available and go from there.
6. Once Trust is Earned, Keep It.
Hopefully by the time you actually become the stepmother, the child has had a chance to get to know you. If trust hasn’t been established yet, then you keep working on it until the trust is there. But most men (assuming he’s close with his children) will not marry a woman his child has not approved of already, so make sure you keep that approval rating high by maintaining and nurturing the trust that you’ve earned. If the child tells you something in confidence, don’t break that confidence by running back and telling daddy everything he/she said. The only way you break that trust is if what the child told you reveals that they are in physical or emotional danger. Trust your judgment while respecting the child, and you’ll be in like Flynn!
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