The Challenges of Step-Parenting

There are many challenges of step-parenting.  Raising a blended family can be full of unexpected blessings, but it can also come with some complications and unexpected bumps in the road.  Whether you are new to being a step-parent or trying to navigate your growing blended family, these tips can help guide you as you strive to raise a happy and healthy family.

Keep a unified front

Partners, ex-partners, step-parents all need to be on the same page.  An example of this could be talking about what discipline looks like when children with you.  All of the ‘little details’ about your time with your child may not seem relevant to discuss when you are talking with your co-parent, but even slight variations in parenting become very noticeable to children. Children are smart and will try to push the boundaries if they realise that they can ‘get away’ with something at dad’s house that they can’t at mum’s house.

To the step parents…

Establishing trust and respect as a step parent can be challenging, especially if you are entering a family with older children. It is important to not ‘try too hard’ with this trust.  If you find yourself bending rules because you want the child to think favourably of you, it may actually be hurting your ability to gain their trust.  Make sure you are on the same page with the co-parenting team and enforce rules in the same manner. Consistency and patience will allow trust and respect to build naturally.

Include the kids

Don’t be afraid to bring the children into conversations about behaviours, when appropriate.  This will ensure that they see the parents as a united front as well as give them empowerment if they feel they need to add to the conversation.  Explain why things are happening if there are changes taking place. Ask your children if they have questions about what is going on. Oftentimes we instinctually want to keep children in the dark as a means to ‘protect’ them from what it going on, but in reality the more they understand about what is happening, the more comfortable they will feel. Children should obviously be kept away from disagreements about parenting styles, or relationship difficulty. This would not be presenting a united front, but conversations about logistics of weekly schedules and their opinions on routines can be really helpful for children in blended families.

Give them space

It can be hard to not want to spend every waking moment with your child, especially when it is limited.  Try to respect their alone time and privacy. They may feel pressured to also need to spend all of their time with each parent, which ultimately causes them to sacrifice their time alone. Allow them to spend time alone and enjoy some autonomy.


Humility is vital when parenting in a blended family. Reminding yourself that there is always room for growth in your parenting will allow you to have civil conversations with your co-parent(s). If you find yourself frustrated with a behaviour of a coparent, approach the conversation with humility. This will allow the conversation to remain productive as well as help keep defences low.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no way to be a perfect parent, but the shared goal of raising a healthy and happy child in a stable environment will be your guide. There will be seasons of ease and seasons of difficulty.  Reminding yourself that they are seasons will help manage the difficult seasons. There are times when it can be helpful to bring in the support of a psychologist to guide you in decision making or even help manage a relationship between co-parents. To book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

3 Tips on Managing Conflicting Values in a relationship
Letting Go: The importance to raising children who learn on their own
Consistency and Consequences: Parenting Strategies for Setting Boundaries

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