What are some things new stepparents should know about parenting middle school and older children with their new spouses? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
What are some things new stepparents should know? It's way, way harder than actually being a parent. (Of course, I didn't have that perspective going in, as the actual "being a parent" part didn't happen until a year or so after the fact).
What worked for me was finding a place to meet the kids in their interests, and participating with them - in a way that their mom and dad didn't, or couldn't. For my stepson, it was collectible card games, video games, and cars. For my stepdaughter, it was reading and art.
I went to the card shop, bought my cards, built a deck and would get on the floor and play with him, night after night. And then I'd scour eBay for rare cards that worked well with his existing deck and strategy and surprise him with those from time to time. His dad thought all gaming was a colossal waste of time. His mom just didn't have time. I did. It mattered to him, and helped a lot, particularly in the early days.
I'd sit and listen to tales of Junie B. Jones being read over and over and over until I can still recount some from memory, and then help her draw pictures of things she'd imagined in the stories. I loved to read, knew how important it was going have encouragement early on, and I had art skills - and supplies. Those were things that mattered to her, a lot.
As children get older, their interests will change. There is usually an inevitable shift where they're embarrassed that they even have parents. And you as a stepparent are not immune to that. I made a point of being available for driving duty, ferrying them around to various places, and being the "on call tech support," guy for whatever it was that went wrong in their life. From broken pieces of jewelry to the ill-advised attempt to run pirated software that "ate" their laptop. Without judgement, without "parenting". Just making it better.
Not an easy job. But well worth it.
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