Talk about stuck in the middle. A step-parent seems to have equal responsibility and so very little rights. And, truthfully, that is probably accurate. The major role in any blended family is the biological parent. The step-parent must stand alongside the birth parent, participate in all aspects of the family and yet they have very little say, at least directly to the children. It is definitely a tough position, but if done correctly, you will be amazed at the strength of a blended family.
Blended families are becoming a common factor in society today. Regardless of all the reference books out there, a very high percent of divorce is prevalent in blended families. Look at it from a logical perspective, the two adults fell in love, the kids didn’t. The children already have two primary adults in their lives that they love. They didn’t ask for their parent’s divorce and they certainly didn’t ask for a step-parent. It probably took some maneuvering to establish two new households with new rules after the divorce. Now, along comes someone else and a new set of rules.
First and foremost, take a deep breath. Try not to sweat the small stuff and by all means, the spouses need to talk… CONSTANTLY! Although the new step-parent should not take a strong, active role at the beginning of forming the family, their feelings and opinions should be heard and respected by the birth parent. If the adults differ, resolution should be a compromise and done behind closed doors. At no time should the children see the adults bickering over the children.
Throughout life, children as well as adults, adapt to a variety of rules. Rules vary from baseball, football, school, home, playground, etc. Rules can vary between households and between co-parents. Rules can also easily vary between parent and step-parent, given time.
Although it may feel degrading, try starting out like a babysitter. You enforce the rules that the biological parent establishes. Start by being present during an instructional moment. Showing that you both stand together helps mold the future. Co-parenting is essential in establishing the relationship between the children and a step-parent. However, you cannot push yourself on the children. Start slow. Be present but silent, in the beginning.
When appropriate, volunteer to stay with the children while your spouse runs errands. In their absence, enforce the rules that the biological parent established. Be gentle in your words and make sure the positive interactions outnumber the negative by ten-fold.
Remind the children that you are there for them and that you realize you are not their parent. You are there to be their friend and trusted adult but remain respectful of their parents.
Children adapt to change and will grow to love and respect the step-parent but it will take an enormous amount of patience and love. Choose to be a positive influence in their lives. At first they will test many boundaries, including the strength of your marriage. Remain the adult and stay above the invitation to engage in negative behavior. Set the example of the behavior you are hoping to get from them. Be kind, loving and nurturing without crossing the boundaries. The time will come where the family will blend and peace will descend upon the new family.