Marrying someone who already has kids isn’t for everyone. But for those who choose to take on this challenge, the rewards are endless. Naturally, there are some things you’ve considered such as how your spouse’s children will react to you. On the other hand, there may be some things you haven’t thought about.
In this article, we wanted to call attention to five things many stepparents experience when joining a blended family. Being aware of the expected, as well as the unexpected, can help stepparents avoid mistakes that could create legal headaches down the road.
1. Share responsibility in a co-parenting situation. Working together for the sake of the kids’ best interests is the foundation of a good co-parenting agreement. Biological parents and stepparents need to work together and be on the same page in order to make their new family unit work like a well-oiled machine.
2. Keep communication open and amicable. Whether you’re speaking to your spouse’s ex or they are, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and friendly between parents for the sake of the children’s best interests. Fighting, failing to communicate or withholding important information regarding the children are all things that can lead to disputes and arguments later on.
3. Know your boundaries in regards to discipline. Your stepkids aren’t yours biologically, but they will be spending a lot of time with you. As such, there will come times where you will need to step in as the parental figure and discipline them. In these situations, it’s important to know what your spouse and your spouse’s ex are okay with and to not overstep these boundaries.
4. Be mindful of the input you give. As a stepparent, you may be included in family decisions, but remember: decisions regarding the children’s best interests fall on the shoulders of their parents, not you. Be mindful of suggestions you make regarding the kids. Even if you think your suggestions will benefit the kids, your spouse or their ex may disagree.
5. Tread carefully on the subject of adoption. In some stepfamily cases, stepparents are eager to make the switch from stepparent to legal parent through the adoption process. Tread carefully with this subject, however. Ex-spouse’s may be offended by the idea of terminating their parental rights, which could lead to disputes and animosity that can damage the relationship between your partner and their ex.