Family Issues: Step-Parenting
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jane I Taylor
16th November, 2010
Being a parent is one of the most important jobs we will ever do, usually we have months or even years to prepare for it. In many cases when it comes to step-parenting we are thrown in at the deep end, not knowing what to do or what to expect. We normally only hear about the negative experiences of families"The Wicked Step-Mother" as in Cinderella.
In reality step-parenting is bitter sweet, some good experiences where outsiders would never know which children where natural to that adult and some bad where it is obvious. The answer is to be prepared for the pitfalls and possible difficulties, do not make assumptions. There will be good times and bad times, this is normal for any family and it is important to see it as such. Often children are resentful of an adult muscling in on their territory (they may like having their parent to themselves) or they may see another adult as a barrier to their parents getting back together. This should not be taken personally, it would apply to any adult coming into their parents life.
Our laws do not make it easy for step-parents:-
The step-parent is responsible to care for the childs physical, medical and emotional needs when in their care.
The step-parent had no legal rights to their step-children even when they live with them. for example, the step-parent doesn't have Parental Responsibility( cannot even give, legally, consent for the child to go on a school trip or consent to take medicine at school etc. even when the child lives with them) Parental Responsibility has to be gained through a court order.
When a couple gets together with existing children on one or both sides they need to talk about the following:-
1. Will the children live with us or their other parent?
2. Will there be opposition to us being together, by the children, if so, .what are we going to do about it?
3. What happens if the children have to come and live with us, their other parent dies, is ill or cannot cope?
4. What about discipline and who decides the rules?
5. Will all the children get on, what are we going to do if they don't?
6. What role are you expecting me to play, how much involvement are you expecting me to have?
7. What if they dislike me, what if I dislike them, how are we going to deal with it?
8. What about the finances, how will it affect our lives, how much do you expect to spend on their presents, cloths etc.?
If you are honest with each other about these questions and can agree to the answers, you are half way there. If you enter into step-parenting with lots of communication, with eyes wide open, it can be just as rewarding as having natural children.
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