Taking on the role of a stepparent is incredibly challenging. You have to put yourself into an established family dynamic and find the right place for you. It usually takes time to develop your role in the family and what your part includes.
Unfortunately, most stepparents still have boundaries they need to know before joining the family. Crossing one boundary leads to significant problems between you and the child or you and your partner.
Trying to replace a parent
Most stepparents do not want to replace anyone, including the child’s mother or father. They want to be active in the child’s life and help guide them through childhood. To avoid replacing another parent, establish clear intentions with yourself and the child. You are a respected mentor and care for the child. If the child decides to call you “mom” or “dad,” it’s their decision.
Assuming you have authority
As an adult, we tend to think we have authority over children – as teachers, counselors or parents. As a stepparent, you cannot assume that a child will inherently respect you. For older children and teenagers, they may even actively rebel against your authority because you haven’t “earned” it.
If you want a child’s respect, slowly transition into a role of support instead of discipline. Allow your partner to be the role of authoritarian, and you focus on gaining their child’s respect through quality time and bonding.
Putting yourself between your spouse and their ex
It’s easy to get involved in your partner’s previous relationship. You are intertwined with the family dynamic. But when it comes to parenting, avoid getting caught in the middle between your spouse and their ex. It will only cause more drama and problems that eventually hurt the child.
Your best strategy is to offer input privately to your parent but not engage with any significant conversations with the co-parent.
Pressuring your partner to put yourself first
It’s essential to receive validation from your partner. However, stepparents need to know that a child will usually take priority over a partner. It’s the parent’s job to make sure their child is protected. Also, jealousy of the parent-child relationship may cause a rift in your marriage.
Luckily, most of these boundaries are easy to follow and applicable to most families. However, each family has specific interests or issues for stepparents to know. Open a family dialogue, so you know what your role should look like in your relationship.