Sometimes when you get married, you become more than just a wife. If your husband or wife has children from a previous relationship, you'll also be given the new title of stepparent. Going from single to insta-family can certainly be an overwhelming endeavor, which is why we caught up with Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, founder and couples therapist at My LA Therapy. Here, she offers up some of the best steps to start mom or dad duty off on the right foot.
Be a united front.
"The most important thing with any parenting, and especially so with blended families, is the parents acting as a united front and making sure that the new parent isn't a non-parent," says Sprowl. That means all three (or four) parents need to be on the same page about what's allowed, what isn't, how the family disciplines, and more.
Talk it out.
If the kids start to rebel or push back on their new parent, it's a natural response to try and defend him or her. But Sprowl says this reaction is a mistake. "I think it's so important to validate your child's feelings," she says. But validating and caving are not one and the same. "Even if you're telling them no, you can validate their feelings and give them room to feel how they feel about it." Additionally, Sprowl adds that it's key to talk it out as a group whenever possible to ensure everyone is hearing the same thing. "Families function as a unit and its really hard to get the whole picture with just one subset of the family."
Don't try too hard.
It's only natural to want your stepchildren to adore you, but bribing them with late bedtime and extra dessert may backfire. "Kids think they want control, but they really don't," Sprowl explains. "What they want to know is that their parents are in control." Every time you try too hard to impress your kids and become the favorite parent, you're actually losing a little respect. But Sprowl warns not to go too far in the other direction either and become the disciplinarian of the group. Just stick to the aforementioned parenting plan, and you'll be able to bond on your own accord—not because you're sneaking them Oreos under the table.