Helping to raise your partner’s child can be an extremely rewarding and positive experience for everyone involved. However, being a step-parent does not come without its challenges.
In this article, we will discuss what to expect when you become a step-parent and how to overcome the challenges and avoid some of the most common pitfalls.
Being a step-parent: what does the law say?
As a step-parent, your rights and responsibilities in relation to your step-child will be largely dependent upon your partner’s involvement with their child and any contact you have with the child will predominantly be as part of your partner’s time spent with their child.
It is possible in very limited circumstances for a step-parent to obtain parental responsibility in their own name or even adopt their step-child. This is beyond the scope of this article, but if you would like to discuss this further, please get in touch to book your free consultation with one of our family solicitors.
If you separate from the child’s parent in the future and seek regular contact with the child, the approach of the court will largely depend upon your level of involvement in the child’s life and the nature of your existing relationship with them.
Being a step-parent: how can I build a relationship with my partner’s child?
It is normal that your partner’s child may feel uncomfortable or shy around you as you first get to know them. They have likely experienced a lot of change and a new adult in their life can cause stress and anxiety.
Being a step-parent can also put stress on your relationship with your partner, as you may have different ideas about how to raise a child.
While there is no set list of ‘do’s and don’ts’ of being a step-parent, here are a few tips that can help you get the relationship with your partner’s child off to a good start:
1. Take things slowly
Accept that it may take time for the child to accept you as their step-parent.
Encourage the child to talk openly with you about any worries they have regarding having a new parent in their life. That way, you can work on addressing them together, ideally with your partner involved.
You also need to reflect on any worries you may have about being a step-parent, as well as how much you are comfortable being involved in bringing up the child.
Dealing with any issues at the start can help to stop them from building up into something bigger.
2. Spend time getting to know the child
What do they like doing? What subjects do they enjoy at school? You can find out this information from both your partner and the child themselves.
Then you can find activities to do together that you would both enjoy, such as:
- Making a meal together for the rest of the family
- Going for a walk with the dog
- Playing a video game together
3. Discover what works best for your family
It may be better that you do not get involved in any discussions your partner has with the child’s other biological parent about parenting or childcare. Or it may work better if all three of you work together to raise the child.
You may find that you do not get involved in disciplining the child, especially in the early stages.
There are no hard and fast rules which dictate what being a step-parent should or should not entail.
What is important is that you discover what works best for you and the family as a whole.
We understand that blended families can be complex and conflict can arise between parents in relation to new partners and step-siblings. For advice and assistance on child contact disputes, contact us today to book your free consultation with one of our experienced family lawyers.