After crossing the threshold with your new husband, you may find it difficult to adjust to life with his children from a previous marriage. You may also struggle with understanding your boundaries with his children when it comes to discipline and daily routines. New stepparents need not handle the struggle alone. Knowing how to treat your stepchildren can boost your relationships with all your new family members.
Relationships with stepchildren often take time, so learning about their interests and spending time together doing them can strengthen your bond, according to the PBSKids website. Though learning the ropes of being a stepparent can be trying, treating your stepchildren with respect and consideration can pay off in the long term. Holding regular family meetings where children can share their concerns and ideas can reduce resentment and possibly prevent arguments, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. You should also respect from your stepchildren -- and speak to your husband if you feel they are not respecting you.
Support from your Husband
Before and at the onset of your marriage, talking to your husband about how to handle discipline and conflict with his children can be useful, according to the KidsHealth website. Since it is important to enforce rules and issue discipline consistently among all children visiting or living in the home, working out your parenting approach with your husband can prevent concerns about favoritism. Treat all children -- both biological and stepchildren -- equally in your household. Create a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with all the children and post them where everyone can see them. Try to make the rules consistent with the rules your children and stepchildren follow when with their other biological parents.
When it comes to discipline, let your husband handle the discipline of his children, but show your support for him when he disciplines them, according to the PBSKids website. In the beginning, work on being a friend, rather than a disciplinarian to your stepchildren. Once you bond develops, you can help discipline them. Conflict with stepchildren can be a normal part of the adjustment that may fade with time. If one of your husband's children criticizes you or undermines you, you might want to say, "I'm sorry that you feel that way. Maybe with time, we will get to know each other better," before walking away. Getting angry or throwing attacks back at your stepchildren will only breed more problems.
Keep in mind that your stepchildren might still be coming to terms with the fact that their parents will never be back together, notes the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Adjusting to a new authority figure and potentially step-siblings can also be problematic. Time can help your stepchildren adjust to their new lives and may make it possible for all of you to bond in the future. Accepting the relationship with your stepchildren for what it is, and acknowledging to yourself that you may never love each other is important, too, according to the PBSParents website. However, do your best to work on your relationship with them, but do not force yourself on them. If you find it difficult to handle your stepchildren, or if conflict continues, a family therapist can help you get your family on track.
Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.