Family Mediation Center

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10 Stepparenting Steps

By Joy Borum, Mediator

  1. Agree that you two are "the parental unit" in this home.
  2. Announce love isn't required, but respect and civility are. Then model those by showing them what you mean/are. They will thank you later either verbally or by modeling what you've taught.
  3. Have a few basic rules. Ex. We'll all know how to reach each other at all times, People are not for hitting or name-calling. Explain that consequences will follow rule breaking. Ex. "No tv, games, or cell phones until X."  "The 1st speeding ticket means you walk to school or you're back on the bus."
  4. Disciplining your stepchildren is the responsibility of the biological parent/partner if at all possible. This does not mean you have to accept unacceptable language or behaviors.
  5. Tell the stepchildren what you prefer to be called (probably not mom or dad).
  6. Speak of the biological parent in words you'd be OK with if seen in print or the children repeated to the teacher.
  7. Allow no child to successfully play you against your spouse/partner. Ex. My realdad/mom would let me... Respond, "Perhaps, however, in this house we... "
  8. Establish clear, respectful communication with the other biological parent(s) - informational e-mails or tweets are helpful especially early on. "I can't pick-up the kids this afternoon, but my sister can, is that OK?" "Yes, thank you."
  9. Don't allow your relationship insecurities to show. There is enough love to go around.
  10. Allow the children speak of the other biological parent(s)... positively or not. Try "Um-hum" or "In some people's homes that's OK."

Reminder: the relationships between your spouse/partner, the other biological parent and their children were there 1st. Let the biological parents take responsibility for those relationships. This doesn't mean you're a lesser being. You remain crucial as an adjunct-parent playing a vital parenting role. Live this way and enjoy your new, extended family.