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Step families come in all different shapes, colour and sizes; sometimes both partners have children from previous relationships; sometimes just one has children; some couples then have their own children together as well; sometimes there are teenagers, and sometimes there are tiny people.
Does your step family include children younger than 3 years old?
Wondering how to tread?
When children are this young, it is easy for the adults to choose the pace and timing of everything. I have a friend who did not have her own children when she met her partner, but he had two very young children.
For quite some time my friend was just their Daddy’s ‘friend’, someone they met for a picnic in the park or watched a movie with – there was no rush to make it more permanent and it allowed the step family to come together at its’ own pace.
Some don’t have the luxury of time, for whatever reason, but you can still give the children time to adjust by allowing them time with their parent on their own and being respectful of any routines and patterns they have in place, and vice versa for you with your own children.
What is your position in this step family?
Do these young children need another mother?
Not usually! It is most common that if the step children are with you, so is their father, in which case let him be the parent and you can spend time getting to know the children and playing together.
This will allow you space to grow a relationship with the children rather than being another ‘parent’.
Obviously, as I know from my own situation, it is not necessarily possible to leave the children’s parent to it as far as household chores and general ‘looking after’ is concerned, but make sure you are happy with the balance so that resentment doesn’t grow.
It is of course a different set of circumstances if the birth mother is no longer present, and the boundaries here can be explored.
This is a highly emotive subject, and one that many struggle with. If you are lucky enough to engage in a positive relationship with the mother of your step children, then this area is altogether easier.
If you are not, then aim to be respectful of her needs as the children’s mother wherever possible – put yourself in her shoes and try to understand that any aggressive or critical behaviours are more often a reflection of her own feelings and insecurities than anything to do with you.
However, if these children are so young it will be hard for their mother to be apart from them. Being a step parent to a child at any age can be a very delicate operation!
Take your time, be respectful and caring to all involved, and also be kind to yourself, give yourself the strength you need to tackle this journey.
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PHOTO CREDIT: AUDREY XAVIER BRULU