Stepparenting is Parenting Without Preparation
When you have a baby, you have 9 months or so to develop an idea of what parenting will be like, to get your mind ready to be a parent. You have time to read books about pregnancy and babies and the terrible twos; there is time to prepare for the major life-changing event that is parenthood. However, if you marry into an already-existing family, whether you have the kids full-time or part-time and whether or not you are step mom or step dad, you do a lot of jumping right in.
Instead of being able to get to know your child's personality and quirks as he or she grows, you are often dealing with a child whose personality traits are already somewhat developed. Depending on the age at which you enter the child's life, those personality traits may be well developed - and add to the challenge of success in your relationship.
Yet becoming a stepparent is no different than becoming a parent in many ways. You are taking responsibility for providing guidance and protection to someone; you are committing to be a supportive part of that person's growth and development. And, just like with your newborn, you are making a promise to be there - not just until the child turns 18, but as an important and integral part of that child's life forever.
Being a stepparent comes with its own set of challenges; not only do you have to overcome the "intruder" assumption, but in addition to trying to build and foster a new marriage, you are presented with the added difficulties of custody issues, child support, and children who are often stuck in the middle of it all.
While the relationship-building with your stepchildren hopefully began long before the wedding bells chimed, there are things you can do to make your new role as a stepparent one that you will enjoy. Remember, relationships don't develop over night. Just as the relationship with your new spouse took time to blossom, so will your relationship with your stepchildren. Be patient when things go wrong, and remember that it's a tough adjustment for all of you.
Open communication helps. Think of how many things have changed in your stepchild's life; from a child's perspective, things happen quickly and they have very little control, which makes them feel insecure. Talking about what will be happening and including the children in decisions and events can help them feel safe.
Stepparenting can be rewarding and fulfilling; it can also be frustrating and heartbreaking. The relationships you develop with the children you bring into your life through your marriage can add joy, bringing you and your spouse closer together. It's not an easy path, but it is a worthwhile one.