“How do I set myself up for success with my new partner and his kids? We are thinking about moving in?” I’ve been having this conversation in a few different venues lately, and I get asked this question a lot!!! It”s an important topic and I love to talk about how to set your self up for success right away. Plus, a request came directly from a poll I sent out to my email list. And I even have some stepdads ask. So here are some tips on dating a divorce parent:
Let him parent as good or as bad as he does. You didn’t break it you can’t fix it and you shouldn’t try. If you do, there are a few people who might get upset about that: Him the ex and the kids.
Understand that not everyone parents the same. Unless it is bordering on neglect or is abusive, different parenting styles are not bad and won’t ruin children. We don’t have a crystal ball and we can’t predict the future. Just know that how the kids turn out is not on you.
Develop trust and build a bond with the kids before you discipline. Otherwise you bossing them around will build resentment. In everyone.
Don’t rush moving in. Our court system here in Alberta recommends waiting a year in a new relationship before introducing the new partner. It’s good for the kids to know you have a solid relationship. Take your time. If you both have kids, slow it down even more. It takes EVERYONE time to adjust to each other.
Readjust your expectations. In other words, lower them. Then lower them again. And make sure you talk about them ahead of time. Dig around and ask yourself some questions, then ask your partner the same questions. How do you handle conflict? Where do you go to get your space? Is your bedroom a sacred space away from the kids? How do you want family meals to look?
Bio parents get first dibs on the discipline for the first while. Then step in after bonds are built with your kids and you are asked for your input.
Don’t feel you have to sacrifice more than the bio parents do. You don’t and you shouldn’t. That job is up to them.
Remember who you were before you came into this relationship. Don’t give her up or everything that brought you joy up for anyone. Keep your relationships with your friends and family strong.
Find a tribe of stepmoms who get you. We all have our own unique path, but the journey is the same. Only other stepmoms know what it’s like to feel all that you do.
Don’t let your self esteem take a hit. Build up that wall of positivity around you so high, the jealous ex and the angry kids can’t get in. Self care, taking breaks, having fun, meditation, journaling, sitting in the sun, fresh air. You have the luxury of leaving the home, the bio parent does not.
Boundaries. Build them. Keep them. Enforce them. They will save you. Need a staring place? Check out Brene Brown’s take on boundaries here. https://tombruetttherapy.com/boundaries-friggin-important-according-brene-brown/
I hope these quick tips are helpful. And if not for you, then share them with a stepparent friend.