Step-parents or “bonus parents” in my experience are a real blessing. As both a child of remarried parents and a parent who is married with blended kids, I think I can appreciate this concept from many different angles.
My parents re-married well. I was blessed to have both a step-mom and two step-dads that cared and loved me very much. Although I DIDN’T accept them in the beginning, as a grown adult with children, words cannot express how I love them very much now. For starters, we need a new paradigm about the love a child can receive. Our society conditions us to think that only a healthy two-parent nuclear family can provide all the love, direction, and role modeling necessary to produce healthy, wealthy, and wise children. Children, mind you, that hopefully grow-up to be well adjusted and successful adults.
The truth is, successful adults come from single parent, grandparent raised, blended, and co-parenting families and there is NO perfect parenting paradigm. The reality of love is it can come from multiple sources and be effective. Growing up mainly with four parents was more difficult and challenging than most, but having more people in my life that cared and showed real interest in my adolescence, shaped me into the adult I am today.
The real underlining issue with step-parents has little to do with the kids. Yes, kids will need time to adjust, and we’ll talk about that more in future posts. However, the attitude of the Ex and the acceptance and understanding of the new stepparent by the “biological” parents IS the biggest issue. Biological parent, can you put the past behind you and allow your kids to love a step-parent too? Can you look past your personal hurts and realize this new adult may actually be a good thing for your children at the other house? Can you share parenting ideas with someone new? Step-parent, can you enter a difficult and thankless new role? Can you participate and at times be left out of parenting decisions without showing judgment or taking it personally? Can you share time and resources and accept your step-children as your own? Difficult but important issues to think about and work through.
Finally, it takes time, be patient. Ron Deal’s Focus on the Family, “Smart Stepparenting” states it this way… General stepfamily integration and bonding with a stepchild hardly ever happens as quickly as adults want it to. It just doesn’t happen on their timetable. Stepfamily researcher James Bray discovered that stepfamilies don’t begin to think or act like a family until the end of the second or third year. Furthermore, Patricia Papernow, author of the book Becoming a Stepfamily, discovered that it takes the average stepfamily seven years to integrate sufficiently to experience intimacy and authenticity in step relationships.”
Step-parenting can add a new dimension of parenting into your family and be a huge plus for your kids. The biological parents need to accept and work with the step parent who is there to love and support your children thanklessly. Recognize that, in time the step-parents relationship with your kids is a hidden blessing worth the obstacles, not a division of their loyalty from you. Free up your children to love ALL their parents and watch relationships bloom in every direction! Let’s hear it for the steps. Hear, hear!
What were the blessings of a step-parent in your life?
Fred Campos is father to three and primary custodian to his daughter Caitlyn from a previous relationship. Image is my wife, Karen aka Super Parent Mom, who is one great step-parent to my daughter.