By Nancy S. Palmer and William D. Palmer
Before taking on the responsibility of a step parent, consider the following guidelines.
- Remember, you are not the parent, and behave accordingly. Refuse to compete with the parent.
- Ask to see the written divorce and custody agreements and understand your spouse-to-be’s obligations. When you marry, you take these on, too.
- Do not put yourself or allow others to put you between your spouse and the ex.
- Use "I" statements, rather than judgmental ones when expressing yourself to the child, your spouse, or the ex-spouse. Concentrate on open communication.
- Make arrangements to meet with your spouse-to-be’s ex (before marriage, if possible) to reassure him or her that you will care for the children but will never try to take on the role of mother or father.
- Tell the children that you care for them but you are not a substitute for their biological parent. Ask the child’s input on what they want to call you. Define your role.
- Be sensitive to the children’s world. Children do not distinguish between stepsiblings, half siblings, or nonblood relations who may appear to be a sibling as a result of divorce and remarriage.
- Remember that each child is different and reacts to things differently. Personalities are neither good nor bad. Each has positive and negative aspects.
- Discuss differences with your spouse behind closed doors. Together present a united front.
- Develop a parenting plan with your spouse before the marriage.