Being a step-parent is tough; it’s equally tough being a biological parent whose children have a step-parent. Your Barrie divorce lawyer would inform you that sticky situations are commonplace when you are part of a blended family, so finding a way to deal with them—fast—is the best route to take. Most experts suggest having an open dialogue and laying a few ground rules when a step-parent enters the picture. That way, you can avoid unnecessary stress and keep your kids happy (and out of the line of fire).
When Step-Parents Need to Step Back
Whether or not biological parents realize it, most step-parents aren’t trying to replace them. In fact, step-parents are probably as unsure of their roles as anyone is; unfortunately, a little confusion can send big mixed signals to the biological parent, who then feels as if his or her toes are being stepped on.
As your step-kids grow, you might encounter several situations that require you to tread softly, including:
- Coaching sports teams. When kids sign up for sports teams, many step-parents would love to pitch in. However, it’s important to have your spouse check with his or her ex first; that way, you won’t be seen as “intrusive” or like you’re staging a hostile takeover of the child’s life.
- Attending school events. From concerts to conferences, it’s important to know when to stay home. Concerts and sporting events are one thing; generally, it’s fine to go and cheer for your favorite star. When it comes to parent-teacher conferences and meetings with principals, get the go-ahead from your spouse’s ex before showing up. While you have every right to know what’s going on with the kids, especially if they live with you, so does the biological parent—and your presence might make them feel displaced (and that’s not good for you in the long run).
- Disciplining the kids. Step-parents should uphold the biological parents’ standards, but in most cases, should leave all the discipline to the biological parents.
- Watching the kids when their biological parent is away. If you’re watching your step-kids while your spouse is out, give the other parent a chance to spend some time with them. There’s nothing wrong with calling or texting to see if they’re able to swing by and pick up the kids.
Biological Parents: Do Step-Parents Have Rights?
While step-parents most likely don’t have any legal rights (check with your Barrie divorce lawyer if you’re not sure about your particular case), they probably do have some emotional rights. They’re invested in your children, too, and if they want to be part of your kids’ lives as a role model, caregiver or something else that’s positive, that’s okay. When you are comfortable knowing they don’t want to take your place, and that they couldn’t if they tried, most step-parents will be glad that you want to include them when it comes to the kids.
Involving Your Barrie Divorce Lawyer
If you ever suspect that your kids are being mistreated, abused or neglected, call your Barrie divorce lawyer immediately. He or she will be able to give you tailored legal advice based on your unique circumstances. Generally, you should also call your lawyer if you feel your kids are facing too much stress with a new step-parent or if their step-parent has been bad-mouthing you in front of them. In some cases, it may even be possible to amend your child custody agreement so your kids’ best interests are served.