Have you ever felt like your family takes you for granted? I know I have. In most households, there is one parent who does a majority of the parenting – the dominant parent responsible for enforcing the rules and routines of the house. This happens naturally for whichever parent spends the most time with the kids.
In our family, that’s me – I work as a freelance writer from home, so it makes sense that I’m the one guiding them through homework routines and – to make a long list short – managing the house.
This role is difficult in any family – and if you’re a step parent doing the work, you’ll probably face additional challenges. Expert James T. Kirsch, M.S., LPC, NCC, Board Certified Clinical Psychotherapist, offered some suggestions to put this role in perspective.
“The first thing I can tell you is it is unavoidable that your role is not always sunshine and roses,” Kirsch said.
That’s definitely true. My step children love me – but because of the way our blended family is set up, there are challenges. They will hopefully appreciate my involvement in the future – maybe when they have their own children – but until then, I have to remind myself not to worry if they don’t appreciate me as a parent now.
Tips to make a step parent’s dominant parenting role easier
Rely on the biological parent to demand respect. He could say something like, “I know I’m not home a lot, but your step mom will be watching you, and I want you to respect her as you would me.” If the step kids are not respecting you when the bio parent is gone, say something like, “That’s disrespectful. I don’t like it, and your dad won’t be happy about it either.”
Be your own person – as well as a step parent. Don’t get burned out. Ask for help and make time to do things you love. Stay in touch with your friends and do interesting things.
Hold family meetings. Plan for the week ahead and discuss expectations of the children’s behavior, especially when related to interacting with their step parent.
Believe your feelings matter. Even if the step kids don’t feel that making their bed is important, as the leader in the home, if you feel it is – speak up. Work out all problems – no matter how small – and don’t let a bad feeling fester.
Make expectations crystal clear. This is something both biological and step parents can utilize. If you ask them to do their homework, add something like, “Here’s what I expect,” and go through the steps. You can finish by asking, in a nice way, “Is that clear for you?”
Remember: It’s not personal. Children have a tendency to respect their biological parents first – and their step-parents second. So it is by design and not by you as a person that the role is difficult to begin with.
Being a step parent is challenging – and rewarding – just like it is for biological parents. When faced with the difficult job of setting and enforcing house rules, remind yourself that backlash from the kids isn’t personal. Rely on your spouse to validate your place in the family and keep your chin up. The sun rises after a bad day and, just when you need them, the roses bloom.
How do you overcome hurt feelings as a step parent?