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10 Things a Stepparent Should Never Say

Stepparents are required to maintain a healthy balance between two extremes. On one hand, you’re still a parental figure. Showing care and exercising discipline is part of your job description. On the other hand, you have to be careful not to become an ‘interloper’ in your stepchild’s life. It’s not your role to replace your stepchild’s real parents.

To help navigate this tension, here are some things that you, as a stepparent, should never say:

I don’t care if that’s the way you did things with your other mom/ dad!

As a rule, never say anything that will undermine the power and authority of the other parent. Aside from appearing like a victimizer, you’re putting your stepchild in the unfair position of being forced to negate one parent’s guidance or wisdom.

I am not your real parent, so don’t ask me!

But don’t adapt a hands-off position either! A stepparent is very much a part of a child’s life, especially if the biological parent has passed away or lives afar. Set new expectations from one another, create a new relationship. At the very least, stress that you’re always available for them should they need you.

Why do you ask for him/her? I’m here now.

Kids are allowed to miss their biological parents; they’re entitled to their own feelings of loss. Don’t feel threatened if they feel sad that they’re living with you. It’s a normal reaction to any change in a relationship.

Honey, tell your son/ daughter who among us is right!

Here’s another no-no: don’t make your spouse choose between you and his ex. It’s quite tempting to make your spouse into a referee just to settle disagreements, but such a move rarely accomplishes anything. It would just create enmity between your stepchild and your spouse!

I am your mother/father now.

This well-meaning statement is usually said to comfort a child whose real parent has passed away. But you can never replace their real parent, and there’s no reason why you should try. You can both exist in their life.

At least respect me if you can’t love me!

Stepchildren, especially the adolescents, often go through a period of rebellion against the new person in their life. Respect, however, needs to be earned, rather than demanded. Show that you mean well and wait until they’re ready to accept you. Rebellion like this is often just a phase.

Why do you love her/ him more?

Again don’t compete. Your stepchild is allowed to love his or her real parent more than they do you. Don’t insist that they treat you with the same kind of affection, put you in the same confidence, or do the same activities with you, as they do their real folks. Your stepchild can love you in a different, but not necessarily less, way.

..and that’s why he/she divorced your mom/ dad!

Don’t badmouth the other parent (even if you honestly believe that they deserve it). Divorce is difficult for any child, and blaming and labeling from your end wouldn’t help.

(Your spouse) doesn’t know didley squat!

The same way you shouldn’t badmouth your spouse’s ex, you shouldn’t badmouth your spouse either! Your stepchild may feel that your spouse is their only ally in your household, so don’t sabotage their support system.

Everything will be different from now on!

Expectedly, a new family means new rules. But do it gradually and democratically. Change is threatening to any child and abrupt change is even more. Proceed slowly. Lay down changes one by one, and always solicit their input.

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