Travers & Travers

Why most stepparents aren't straight out of a fairytale

Disney movies and fairytales portray a negative connotation surrounding stepparents. Whether it's the evil stepmother in Cinderella or the queen from Snow White, fairytales want kids to believe that a stepparent is someone to be feared rather than loved.

In reality, stepparents are much more complicated. They are stepping into a new family dynamic where they perform parental duties without the "mom" or "dad" title. They also have to adjust to a new environment where they are the newest member, not the child.

What can stepparents do to dispel the fairytale myth?

Luckily, most stepparents do not need magic spells or cursed spindles to be great role models for their kids. They only need to know a few techniques to blend into the new environment while taking a new role on in the family.

First, you need to know the expectations surrounding the role of "stepparent." You aren't there to replace a child's biological mother or father. You are there as an additional parent who can support the child through the development and difficult situations. You don't have to "take charge" and throw yourself into the parent-teacher meetings right away.

After you set expectations, you need to evaluate how you will form a relationship with your spouse's child. You don't want to assume they will accept you immediately because most kids, especially teenagers, need time to adjust to a new family situation. Your best strategy is to develop a friendship before establishing your parental role.

You don't have to gossip or be best friends, but you have to develop a connection between you and the child. It makes it easier for you to build trust and respect for one another. It also breaks an awkward tension between family members.

Finally, accept your role as the stepparent. You need to remove the negative stigma of stepparents from your mind and embrace the role of stepmother or father for your child. You can even see the benefit of learning what it's like to be a parent before becoming a parent yourself.

Stepparents do not have to be the evil newcomer in the family. They may even offer a fresh perspective on a household and bring new life back into the family dynamic.

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