Following on from the previous article on step-parenting, we look further into ways to help children adjust to changes in the family home.
A two-home step-parent family is whereby children share a home with both parents separately, and both or one biological parent has new partners and possibly children from former relationships. When you move your child into a step-parenting relationship, it is important to be conscious of the following:
  • Children in this family need a lot of reassurance, as one parent will have left the family home. They will need to know where they live and with whom.
  • If the situation is complicated by one parent moving out and very soon living with other children who are not their biological siblings, this can leave children very unsettled. It can be very hard for a child to understand why their parent could or would leave them. Children could wonder are these other children nicer, better behaved, cuter, etc.
  • Parents will need to take a lot of time to explain and reassure children of the importance they have in their lives. Regular contact shows your child this. Getting a really good, consistent contact plan in place is crucial.
  • Maintenance will also be very important, as the parent with most care could resent the fact that they may be struggling while the other parent can be seen to spend less. Children need to know that their needs are paramount and will be met by parents.
  • Step-parents need to remember that biological parents have responsibilities first and foremost to their biological children, and should try to support them to make the right choices regardless of what stories there are about how the separation came about.
  • When parents have time with their children, they need to ensure there is one-to-one time as much as possible.
  • Children will want to get to know step-parents, but biological parents are the key - you are the person they miss from their lives.
  • If there are children from two families coming together, don’t expect that they should all just get along and play. They will need support to do this.
  • Children may be confused about the role of each parent. Be very open and honest with children. Use artwork to help children map out their family and relationships. Give them the words to explain to others who are in their family.
  • When two parents come together, it is most likely they will have different ways and beliefs about how to parent. It will take time and conversation to understand why you both do what you do. You need to agree on a style that suits all children. You cannot have different rules for different children. You will need to be on the same page and support each other.
  • Be open and honest with the other parent. Talk with them about what is happening in your home. Talk with them about who your shared child is living with. Children do a lot better when they can talk with both parents openly about life and the challenges they face.
  • Whoever the child asks the question of needs to answer the question. No passing the book!
  • There are many transitions that can happen after a separation; step-parenting is only one of them. The birth of a sibling can be another confusing, complicating and yet exciting - if not threatening - one. Take time to prepare for all the transitions that separation can bring about so they are positive experiences for all the family.
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