9 Tips to Being a Good Stepparent

To be a good stepparent, first of all, you must give your partner's child time to come to you when they feel comfortable. Learn more.
9 Tips to Being a Good Stepparent
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 20 May, 2023

When you’re in a relationship with someone who has children, you must accept that they’re a fundamental part of their life. In addition, it’s possible that at some point, you’ll have to share with your partner’s family, which implies a great challenge. So, you’ll have to adapt, get to know a different family reality, and get closer to their children. Let’s see how you can build a role as a good stepparent.

About bonds

Before thinking about how to be a good stepparent, it’s worth considering a “previous step”. What does it mean for you to be a good parent, sibling, or friend? In this regard, although the roles within a family prescribe behaviors and also determine expectations, it’s important to think about what values we want to guide our actions.

Bonds are made, not born. So, if you want to be a good stepparent and build a positive relationship, try to be an example of that bond you intend to have.

Write down these tips for being a good stepparent

Here are some tips to keep in mind to have a good relationship as a stepparent.

1. Avoid being complacent

Don’t try to win the affection of your partner’s children by being overly generous or having an “easy yes”. You can also disagree with behavior in an assertive and respectful way. That’s much more helpful and genuine than trying to flatter.

Getting close to the little ones and sharing moments with them is key to positive bonding. If you only show up at home to give orders, it’ll be difficult to generate a space of trust.

2. Get close to the children

To establish a relationship, you need to know the other person. In this regard, if you want to build a real bond with your partner’s child, you can start by getting closer, sharing their games or interests, and telling them about yours.

3. Accept that each family has its own rules and customs

Avoid imposing your vision of things as if it were a universal rule and as if there were only one way of being a family. Keep in mind that you come to be part of a group that already existed and functioned in a certain way. This can be changed and enriched, but imposition isn’t the way.

4. Respect their timing

If there’s a recent separation, perhaps that child is still mourning the concept of the family they knew and things are no longer as they were before. Perhaps, the separation was more conflictive than desired and there are still conflicts. Therefore, it’s important to be careful regarding both the stage the family is going through and the situation of the child in question.

5. Avoid comparisons

The classic phrases such as “in my house, this wasn’t allowed” or “if it were up to me, you would already be punished”, among others, are best avoided, as should those comparisons or negative comments that refer to the other parent. Remember that this person will always be their mother or father, regardless of whether or not you’ve come into the child’s life.

6. Accept that everyone has their place

Don’t try to compete with the child to show who’s more important or has more authority. Try to respect the moments alone that your partner has with their child, as well as to generate your own spaces. At some point, you may also be able to spend more time together.

7. Seek to create new traditions or activities

Avoid competing with your partner’s ex as to who has the best meals or the most outdoor plans. If you want to bond with their children, try to distance yourself from what they already do and come up with original plans.

A stepfather and stepdaughter cooking together.
Being a stepparent and building a good relationship with your partner’s children is an opportunity for the kids to have access to new experiences.

8. Don’t overrule their parents to gain the child’s support

You may not always agree with everything the child’s parent does. However, you don’t know why they do it. So, avoid judging something you only half-know and, what’s more, don’t make your partner’s child have to take a position for or against. Therefore, it’s important that you don’t speak poorly of their parents and try to listen and understand.

9. Set limits in a respectful way

You shouldn’t be so flexible that it seems that limits don’t exist nor should you practice authoritarian parenting, because neither approach is appropriate. If your partner’s child disrespects you, you can point out that this behavior isn’t correct and how it makes you feel. Avoid violence, sarcasm, and any style of communication that’s not constructive. It’s better to talk beforehand with your partner about your role and scope, as well as to define rules to make family coexistence work.

Everything takes time

Fundamentally, when we talk about relationships, we refer to bonds that develop and grow or stagnate due to different actions. For example, sharing a meal, giving an opinion on a movie, or taking an interest in each other’s daily lives. However, before moving on to this stage, it will also be essential to have a conversation with your partner to find out what’s the most appropriate way and when the best time to get to know the family is.

In this regard, you should also ask yourself about your own ideas about family. Are you ready to meet your partner’s children? Are you clear about your interest in forming a new family? It’s good to be honest with yourself and your partner. This way, you’ll avoid surprises and unpleasantness in the future.

Also, let go of expectations and social pressures. Perhaps family is very important to you, which is fine. However, you don’t need to start a new family overnight to indicate that you mean business.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.