“I’m moving in with my boyfriend and his two children he has them for half the week. We’ve been together a while I’ve met them plenty of times………”
You will have your own one line sentence similar to the one above, but it will be different, different because it will reflect your own circumstances. It will say how long you’ve known your partner, how well you know the children, how many times you’ve met them, whether you have children of your own, and what the circumstances are around how often you see them at the moment, and your plans about moving in.
How we should move in together? How we should tell the children? How we should proceed? – are all questions we get asked at Be StepWise a lot. However the answers will depend on the sentence you would write like the one above. The answers really are as long as a piece of string, because not only will the answers depend on the actual physical circumstances; ages of the children etc. but also on the emotional receptiveness to your plans.
What is our advice guided by?
Knowing what school aged children living ‘at home’ likely to be most bothered about?
Losing their parent to you: They could be fearful that they will lose their Mum or Dad to you. They will already have noticed that you have made some changes in your lifestyle to accommodate each other. This is a normal part of coming together as a couple. They will also have realised that your opinions count. They count more than theirs do. Possibly this is the first time they will have experienced an outsider being able to influence their parent more than they are. Plus, you are able to influence their parent with regards to them. This is even more scary for them.
Changes: When you move in with your partner there will be changes. Your step-children will be aware that these changes are happening, and will be alert to how you are going to be. Are you going to tell them off? Tell them what to do? Introduce new rules? Make them do things or stop them doing things? Are you going to change the routines?
For info on managing Adult step-children see –parenting adult step-children.
For info on what a biological Mother may want see – 11 things a Mother really wants to tell the Step-Mother
What to do.
Be observant to what role you may want, and what role others seem to be giving you. The role may be different for different people. One child may really seem to want you to be ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy’, other children may not want your involvement. Your partner may be wanting you to be surrogate ‘Mum’ or Dad’, when the children don’t want it. Just be observant and look and listen until it becomes clear what role is best yours and then talk about it.
Work with your partner
When you and they are with the children pick up on things that you may be doing differently that may bother you. The children may be allowed to do something (like use your computer, help themselves to snacks between meals, stay up later than you would like), and discuss it with them. Aim to work as a team and agree your differences away from the children. Then together you will be able to parent, and when you disagree, at least you know there is a disagreement. Schedule some time just for the two of you every week, and although you need time for just you and the relationship some time would be usefully spent agreeing on co-parenting issues.
Allow the children one-to-one time with their parent: This is so important. The child or children will have been used prior to your moving in to time alone with their parent, even if it was relatively unstructured. If this stops they are really likely to resent it. This is particularly true just while there are changes taking place, as, if they feel they have lost their parent to you, they will feel abandoned. Allow them time with their parent and you can keep abreast of any little issues that come up and nip them in the bud. If bigger issues come up then at least you know about them early on. Allowing time can be hard for you, excited about being in a new relationship together, and can feel threatening. But do what you need to regarding nurturing yourself to feel okay about this, see a friend, join a club, take up an interest, anything to allow you to allow them to have a bit of time with their parent alone.
Making changes: Many step-parents want to make changes to the way some things are the moment you get established in the same house. Changes to diet, habits, scheduling, a step-parent can usually easily see what improvements could be made, ‘for the good of the children’ a lot of the time. And you could be right. The advice is to not make changes initially until you’ve had a chance to team up with your partner on it, and have used time to help you make the changes. Step-children could be very alert to and quite resentful of changes. However, if you wait until the start of the next school term and say, “now, due to it being the summer term, I plan to give you fruit for your snack boxes not crisps”, or “now you are eight, I’m wondering if you are ready for another responsibility?…..”
Expectations: You’re in love, and you’re excited about life ahead. You are ready to-go, and you’re ready to make this step-family really zing. You may want it to be better for the children than ever before. My words?…… go slow. By all means have fun, but go at the pace the family and children want. There can be lots of mixed emotions around what the other parent might be feeling about your arrival as the new live-in parent, they could feel guilt how the parent left behind might be feeling, or sad that now they know their parents will never get back together again. Put your energy into understanding them than trying to make them happy.
Read a parenting book or go on a parenting course: On top of what’s been said above it is also worth getting yourself a good book on parenting. There are plenty about and it will give you sound advice and lots of good ideas.