Being a step-parent can be rewarding, but it also has its challenges. Learning to live as a new family takes time and good communication.

Here are some tips for surviving as a step-parent. Listen to your children. Give them the individual attention they need, when they need it. Children can feel discarded and overlooked when two families unite in the one house.

  1. Don’t try to force relationships. Give step-parenting the time it needs to develop. You are building new relationships, not replacing old ones.

  2. Work as a team. It is important that you support your new partner’s way of interacting with the children. Deal with discipline issues together and be consistent in how you treat all your children.

  3. Encourage open discussions. Children need a chance to express their frustrations and concerns about new living arrangements, but encourage them to do it in front of the other family members.

  4. Respect their privacy. Make sure each child gets time to themselves. If the new arrangements mean they have to share a bedroom with another sibling, make sure they get some time in their room alone.

  5. Develop new traditions. When two families come together in a new home, new rules and traditions should be discussed from the beginning.

  6. Speak well of your former partner and your current partner’s ‘ex’. Always encourage interaction with the other parents and never speak negatively of them.

  7. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Parents need to look after themselves while a new family is forming. Make time for each other, away from the kids.

  8. Enlist outside help. Never leave one of the older children in charge of the other children when you go out. Invest in a good babysitter so there are no issues with power or authority.

  9. Accept that handovers for part-time stepfamilies may not go smoothly. Allow time for this by being flexible about drop-off times, even if it means getting takeaway for dinner that night.

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Better Health Channel

Last updated: May 2012

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