Your Questions Answered

26 10 2008

What’s a good activity for that first meeting with the kids? 

The first time you meet the kids who may become your stepchildren in the future is to plan something fun. The less pressure, the better. Ask Dad what his kids like to do. When I met my stepkids, we went to the park across the street and played. You could also have dinner and play cards or go for a bike ride. Watch out for activities that take up too much time. For instance, an all-day trip to an amusement park is probably a bit too intense for a first meeting.

What’s the best way to help discipline your stepchildren in a way that establishes you as an authority in the house but doesn’t step on the biological mother’s toes? 

Dad is your best resource. He needs to make it clear to his children that you are another adult in the house and that he expects them to be respectful of you. Then you and Dad set up the house rules together, away from the kids. The list should include mostly rules the kids are used to living by and some new ones that make you feel at home. Then Dad presents the list to the kids so you aren’t the bad guy. Because they are house rules, when you enforce them, kids are more likely to respond. If possible, the kids’ biological parents should be talking to each other so the rules in both houses are fairly similar. If you are conscious of Mom’s feelings and respectful of the way she has chosen to raise her children, hopefully conflict will be minimal.

Can you recommend ways to meet other women in similar situations so I can find people to share stories and advice with? 

There are several stepmom websites where women go to look for advice and discuss issues on the forums there; just beware the negativity you’ll find in some of them. You can also check out the stepfamily therapists and counselors in your area. For instance, in Minneapolis, Dr. Ann Orchard runs stepmom education classes. Many of the women who meet in her classes continue meeting for support and camaraderie afterward. Check here for a list of resources.

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