Boundaries stepparents shouldn’t cross

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Stepfamilies come in all shapes and sizes, and while they can bring love and happiness, they can also bring problems and various parenting conflicts.


Psychologist Patricia Papernow Ed.D., says, “A stepfamily is a fundamentally different structure and it makes a different foundation for relationships than a first-time family,” One of the major differences with a blended family is that there isn’t an equal relationship to the children in the parenting process.  It creates a dynamic that many step-parents are wise to avoid.  Look at these common areas where parents slip up and make sure you try to avoid making them.

1. Talking negatively about your spouse’s ex.

As a stepparent, you may want to talk poorly of your partner’s ex, but this is one of the cardinal sins you can commit.  Even if your stepchildren are doing it, make sure you listen with an open ear, and be a source of support, but not at the expense of the other parent.  When possible, make sure that you contribute to helping to contain any conflict between your partner and their ex.  The issue will most likely resolve itself, and the child will likely remember any negative things you say and hold it against you.


2. Trying to take the place of your spouse’s ex

While the other parent might not be in your stepchildren’s life, whether because of separation or death, that doesn’t mean that you should take their position.  The child has another dad, and that isn’t you.  Parenting expert Derek Randel says “These children are not yours.  No matter what the biological ex-spouse has done, respect the child’s need to love that parent.”

Be clear with your role here.  You can become a loved and respected mentor to your stepchildren, without the need to take the place of a parent.  Another thing to note here is to never force your stepchildren to call you ‘mum’ or ‘dad’!  Let that come in its own time, or never at all!  And if they do decide to call you ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, then accept it with gratitude and live up to the responsibility that they have given you.


3. Disciplining your stepchildren.

No matter if these children are acting like total brats, this is a line that you cannot cross!  While it can be easy to get caught up in the anger of the situation, it is so much better to keep your cool and wait for their parent to deal with the situation.  They should be the one to impose a suitable punishment if one is needed.

4. Involving yourself in parenting discussions between your partner and their ex.

While it can be so tempting to weigh in on a parenting discussion between your partner and their ex, please don’t.  The ex certainly didn’t agree to co-parent with you, and will likely feel irritated and annoyed if you give un-called for advice.  If they are still upset about the divorce or separation, then they can cause a whole lot of pain and upset which you would probably rather avoid.  While you will likely want to provide your own input into the situation, this should be done privately with your spouse, and make an effort to build a good relationship with your partner’s ex.

5. Putting yourself between your partner and their children. 

You may want to get on your stepchildren’s good side by disagreeing with your spouse, but this will backfire eventually.  You need to remain a unit as a couple.  While the child may resent you for getting involved in their business, it is far better for your partner and the child to work out their issues without your input.  Remember, you are not the parent. It is not your place to try to overrule the other parent’s decisions regarding the children.

6. Assuming a position of authority.

If your partner has a young child under say the age of 5 or 6, then they may be willing to accept your authority in a blended family, but certainly, teens and school-age children will violently rebuff any attempts at authority.  To tackle this, go slowly with them.  Act as a supportive friend to the children, and as support for your partner.  Basic respect is a must, and you will need to put time and effort into building a relationship with these children if you want to establish a successful blended family.

7. Overruling the ex. 

No matter the rules, whether it is no sleepovers, no piercings before 12 or your stepchildren are banned from dyeing their hair, it is not your place to override the ex’s wishes.  In the situation you are in, there are no ex-parents, just ex-spouses, and they get as much of a say in the matter as your partner does.  Even if you disagree with the rules in place, know that you didn’t implement them and you can’t control them.


8.  Feeling jealous when your partner and their children want some one-on-one time.

Make sure that your stepchildren feel that they can have ‘special time’ without you and that you are 100% okay with that.  Many children might be feeling a bit insecure with their parent’s new relationship, and it is important that they maintain a close bond with both parents at this time.



What boundaries do you think stepparents should never cross?  Tell us in the comments below!

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