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How to Be a Stepmother to a Toddler

by Maria Magher

Becoming a stepmother can be both a blessing and a challenge. While you might welcome the opportunity to expand your family, your new stepchildren may see you as "not mom" and resent your perceived intrusion on their family unit. Toddlers, in particular, can be challenging because they are just learning to assert their independence yet don't have the skills to express themselves and so end up throwing tantrums and having other emotional outbursts in frustration.

Open your heart. In order to develop a close relationship with your stepchildren, you have to want one. Make sure you're ready to become a stepparent.

Spend quality time together. In the beginning, this should be time with you, your partner, and the toddler. However, as the child begins to warm to you and trust you somewhat, you can spend quality time along together.

Find ways to connect. Super Nanny recommends simple, everyday things such as changing diapers, giving a bath, or joining in play. Make yourself a consistent and positive presence.

Allow your husband to oversee discipline. Dr. Phil says that disciplining children who are not biologically your own can instill resentment and other hard feelings in the children. Instead, you should work to create boundaries and leave the disciplining to your husband -- at least until a stronger relationship is established.

Establish house rules. Toddlers, especially, need consistency. Work with your spouse to establish rules for behavior, routines and so on -- and stick to those rules. These may not be the same rules that were instituted in the previous relationship, and they may not be the same rules the toddler experiences at the other parent's house, but it is important to be consistent in what you enforce in your own home.

Always be kind to the child's biological mother. Even if toddlers don't yet understand everything that you are saying -- or understand the subtext behind what you are saying -- they can sense tension. Create a harmonious environment for your new family by practicing inclusiveness and kindness.

Don't force it. Your stepchildren may or may not ever grow to love you -- or to even like you. You can't force a relationship with them. Simply be open, be consistent, and be positive, and you will likely see results. It can be more difficult with older kids, but a toddler will likely grow to accept you as a parent. However, if you don't ever get the relationship you want, you can at least create a relationship that's ultimately based on mutual respect and consideration.

Items you will need
  • Patience
  • Established household rules

Tip

  • Find ways to have fun together. Nothing bonds two people quite like laughter.

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

Photo Credits

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