5 Things I Wish I Had Done Differently as a Stepparent


Adult and children's hands of different skin tones join in a hands-in clasp like a team.It’s such a beautiful thing when two adults meet, fall in love, and decide to spend the rest of their lives together. However, if you have children from a previous relationship, buckle up because you’re about to become a stepparent.

As an only child, I never dreamed of having and raising a large family, let alone a stepfamily. But when I met my husband, he had a son, and I had my two boys. After dating for a little over a year, we combined our lives and became a family of five. Soon after our wedding, we conceived, and I gave birth to our only daughter and only child together.

As we merged our lives, everything seemed to be okay between the five of us, but I soon came to realize that it was more like “our team” versus “their team.” Not a good thing!

Let’s cut to the chase: Parenting is hard enough, but if you attempt to combine “teams,” be prepared for a lot of practices and team meetings. Stepparenting can be tough!

I don’t know where we went wrong, but we’ve never seemed to recoup from our transition. It saddens my heart to think that my children didn’t get to enjoy the true meaning of a blended family. Instead, our transition was more challenging than it was seamless.

If you’re currently a parent in a stepfamily, I encourage you to learn from my experience. Hindsight is always 20/20, and if I could do it all over again, here’s what I’d do differently:

1. Pick Roles

Early in our union, we made the decision to raise and discipline our own children separately, and to parent our shared daughter together. This was a mistake!

Not only did it make for an unequal playing field amongst the boys, but it also caused problems between my husband and me. My husband worked nights and I worked days, which left most of the parenting to me.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d get a clear understanding of the parenting roles that each one intends to take and expects the other parent to take.

>> RELATED READ :: How a Stepdad Can Make a Family Whole <<

2. Communicate Openly

Like some stepfamilies, our children grew up in a divided household where the dynamic often felt like “their” team against “ours.” Our daughter is the only one who receives genuine love and affection from everyone. We’re all great separately within our teams, but once we join together, you could cut the air with a knife. 

If I could go back in time, I’d speak with the children collectively and separately about their feelings, and answer any questions that they may have.

3. Set Expectations

Since my stepson’s mother and maternal family played a big part in his life, I developed my own set of boundaries as his stepmom.

In order to keep the drama down between myself and the other side of his family, I simply provided the basics of making sure that he was always well fed, had clean clothes, and a clean and safe environment.

My husband provided for the five of us financially, but will be the first to admit that he never developed a true father-son relationship with either of “my boys.” I, on the other hand, attempted to make a greater effort, but the awkwardness of forcing a relationship outside of my own brood was always there.

Over the years, we learned that becoming step parents was not something that either one of us was ever going to be good at. It would have helped us to plan a meeting with the entire family and talk about expectations and rules.

>> RELATED READ :: How to Keep Gratitude in Your Romantic Relationship <<

Child kisses his step mom on the forehead.

4. Meet Regularly

By the time I was able to understand the meaning of a stepchild, I was well into living my life as one. In many ways, my own experience as a stepchild has shaped the way I stepparent.

My mother remarried after being divorced for ten years. By the time this union took place, I was a young adult going into my second year of college. I can’t remember exactly how I felt about having a new stepfather, but I’m pretty sure that it was awkward seeing as though it had been just my mom and me for most of my life.

I don’t know when the relationship with my stepfather became strained, but it did. I recall being placed under what felt like a magnifying glass. I felt as though I needed to mind my Ps and Qs at all times. It seemed as though the ruler used to measure me was a lot different than for his own two daughters, and resentment soon set in. At the time, my relationship with him felt more like a typical stepparent-stepchild dynamic rather than the blended family I longed for then and now.

As I matured over the years, I was able to put aside our rough start and embrace our father-daughter relationship. He ended up being the one I called upon when I needed any kind of manly assistance, and he developed a special bond with my son, Robert, his firstborn grandson.

He even developed a relationship with my husband and would often say how proud he was of the two of us. He has since passed away, but I often find myself wishing he was still here to impart his wisdom and grandfatherly love into my sons and daughter.

If I could change the past, I’d go back in time to create a space where we could have more years like his last. I’d hold frequent family meetings to talk about how things are going.    

>> RELATED READ :: Childhood Anxiety :: How My Daughter (and Myself) Benefitted from a Counselor <<

5. Seek Help

Fast forward to today and I can still see and feel some of the division within my nuclear family. 

The truth is, it’s never too late to try again. If all else fails, seek professional family counseling. No matter the results, you’re still family!

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Laurie H
Laurie, known to many as “L,” is an only child born in Cleburne, Texas. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and relocated back to Big T almost 20 years ago. Laurie married her husband Taiwan in 2006, and they’ve collectively raised three sons and a daughter. Her professional experience includes working for city municipalities, independent school districts, and as a youth case worker. In 2015, she became the owner of CakePopsByL, a cottage bakery boutique. When she’s not filling dessert orders, she spends the majority of her time creating innovative digital content for more than eight social media accounts, where she shares recipes, baking tips, and cooking tutorials. She’s a self-proclaimed chef and spends a lot of time in the kitchen filming content and preparing delicious meals for her family. Laurie is a homebody who considers herself an extroverted introvert. She likes to travel, spend time with her family, and feels most rewarded when she’s teaching and helping others.


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