10 things step parents want their bio parent partners to know
My partner Dawn and I often have lengthy discussions about step family issues, including things like resentment, respect, chores, house rules and consequences among other topics of conversation. All of these are subjects I imagine most step families have experienced at some point or other.
Talking about these issues can sometimes get quite heated as step parents and bio parents both have different roles to play and sometimes have very different styles of parenting. This is most definitely what we experience. We see things in different ways but also agree on other areas of parenting. There’s nothing wrong with having different styles and opinions, as long as the discussion stays respectful and constructive. When differences of opinion lead to arguments and falling out however, that only builds longer-term resentment and upset.
Dawn and I have each written an article from the perspective of our roles as bio-parent and step-parent, about what each wants their partner to know but may not be able to express easily or at the right moment. (You can read Dawn’s article here.) The aim is to help both sides get a better understanding and perspective of how their partner feels and to gain some insight into how they might be able to make changes to improve their relationship.
Communication is key to discovering thoughts and feelings you may not even realise your partner has. As parents we can all learn if we listen to what our partner has to say.
Share this article with your partner and maybe find a moment to check in with your partner to see how they are feeling today. Remember to keep an open mind and be open to change if it can improve your relationship and your family as a whole. Most importantly value each other as people and as equal parents regardless of your role in the family.
10 THINGS WE'D LIKE OUR BIOLOGICAL PARENT PARTNERS TO KNOW
No one teaches you how to be a step parent. We may be coming into the step family with no experience of parenting at all and certainly no “qualifications”. This can be very daunting for newbie step parents. Your unconditional support and advice will be invaluable as you already have experience as a parent. Patience and understanding will help us ease into this new environment.
We need to know what our role is. Even before we enter our new relationship and even before we meet your children, we need to establish the dos and don’ts of what we should be doing. What are you as the bio parent happy for us to be involved in? Do we have any parenting responsibilities or do we leave all the parenting to you? The clearer you are about boundaries the more confidently we can settle into our role. That means we’ll be better at meeting your needs and the needs of the children.
Starting slowly is best. We don’t want to rush things but we will make mistakes and say the wrong things probably at the wrong time. We look to you for support and encouragement to help us through periods like this. Your knowledge as a parent is a huge benefit to us in these situations and helps us learn from our mistakes.
Being respected is crucial. When we first enter the world of step parenting we may have concerns over how we’ll be treated. Respect is a very important subject and one that we value highly. We want to be respected and treated with respect by your children and any other family member. We understand that your children are your number one priority but we are also part of the family dynamic and should be respected on the same level as everyone else. Priorities are fine but treatment of everyone should be valued and equal.
Ex-partners are a factor. We accept that your ex partner will be involved to a certain extent while the children are of school age. But we are also part of the family and are affected by decisions you and your ex make about the children, especially if we are the ones looking after the children on a daily basis. We would like to be consulted on any issues or topics that involve us and our time with the children.
We all try our best whether we are step or bio parents. Sometimes things don’t always turn out as we hope they will. Sometimes we can have a fantasy that we will be liked and loved and everything will just neatly slot into place and our family will gel together. If we click with your children then this is wonderful. If, however, we struggle to create a bond then that is also okay. We don’t want to feel pressured into feeling that we have to love, or even like everything about being part of the step family, and be made to feel guilty if our relationship with the children takes time to grow. Encourage us and support us knowing that, over time, our relationships will get stronger and that is okay.
My children, your children – our children. If we have our own children, whether they live with us as part of our new blended family with you and your children, or come to stay as part of custody agreements, we would hope that everyone is treated equally. That means everyone is treated the same when it comes to birthdays, holidays, any social gatherings or family events. All children want to be treated with love and respect and need to feel secure, especially in a new family situation.
Our opinions, thoughts and feelings matter, even if you don’t agree with them. We will always support you to the best of our ability. This may not mean that we agree with you or that you have to agree with us. Communication and having the freedom to have an opinion is important as a step parent. No one should feel they can’t speak up about things that are important to them. We ask you to allow us to voice our concerns over anything that affects us without being shut down or made to feel that our feelings don’t matter. Everyone’s feelings matter and everyone is allowed a voice.
You take the lead. We are very happy to step aside and let you as the bio parent deal with discipline, and have the final say when it comes to your children. Even if we don’t agree with you, we will always support you and help in any way we can. If you ask for help and support then we will give it and be there for you. Our relationship with you will always be a high priority for us and one we will always cherish and love.
Sometimes we feel like outsiders. It can be difficult entering a ready-made family with memories already in place and relationships already created. It’s lovely that you and your children have so many shared memories, but sometimes we can feel left out. So please consider us when sharing family memories or talking about past events, especially if it’s a regular occurrence. Maybe involve us in discussions and ask about our memories as well so we can feel like part of the family. That way we can grow new memories together.