Unfortunately, there is no instruction for stepparents as each blended family is unique, so each stepparent has to figure things out on their own. There are, however, some general rules that apply in most cases. Here is a list of stepparenting don'ts that might help you get along with your stepkids.
Don't expect to bond immediately. Many stepparents set their expectations too high, especially if they already have kids of their own. You don't have a shared history with your stepchildren, so you will interact differently. Even if you like each other, it will take time to develop your own dynamic. The less you expect, the less frustrated you will get.
Don't rush. Many stepparents come on too strong, trying to bond with their stepkids. But it's not the right thing to do. Children are not dumb, they can see when you are trying to suck up to them. So don't buy them lots of gifts or try to become the “cool parent”. Take baby steps, you need to build trust and let your bond form naturally.
Don't overdiscipline. Some stepparents are too strict towards their stepchildren because they think it will help them gain their respect. However, this approach often backfires, and the kids begin to despise the “bad cop”. Besides, you mustn't punish the children in a way that is inconsistent with the biological parent.
Don't overcompensate. While some stepparents tend to be too harsh, others are too kind. They overcompensate by favoring their stepkids. As we've already said, children can see right through this. Besides, if you have biological children, they will feel bad if the stepkids get special treatment just because you want to earn their respect.
Don't neglect your stepchildren if you have biological kids. From now on, all kids in your family are your kids. There shouldn't be any favoritism in your new family. Make sure your stepchildren feel included.
Don't neglect your partner. If you focus on getting along with your stepchildren too much, you might forget about spending time with your partner. Don't let family problems dominate your conversations. When you are together, focus on your relationship. If the kids see that you love each other, it will be easier to connect with them.
Don't take it personally. Stepkids might say some hurtful things to you, such as “You are not my real mom/dad”. That's not because they hate you. They are just trying to deal with their own feelings. When a parent gets remarried, the kids' hope that their biological parents will get together again dies. They are confused and need time to process the changes that have happened in their life.
Don't forget that they have a past. Your stepkids had their own life before you came into the picture. There are traditions and rules that had been established before you became their stepparent, and you need to respect that. Creating a new family is a new beginning, but that doesn't mean that you start with a clean slate and forget about the past.
Don't be passive. When things are not going too well, the idea of stepping away and just waiting until things fall into place is very tempting. Well, it doesn't work that way. You need to work on the relationship with your stepkids. Be patient because it might take a lot of time. And by no means avoid contact, even if they are not friendly. Ignoring your stepchildren will make the situation even more complicated.
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