…..so don’t be the Evil Step-Mother (or Father, as the case may be). Step-Parents can be stabilizing influences in a home, helping to provide stability and discipline. They can help provide childcare so that co-parents can work and can be a helping hand during the terrible two’s. How wonderful for children to grow up knowing that they have more than one parental figure who loves them and cares for them dearly.

BUT . . . step-parents are NOT parents. They are to provide support to the parental role, but are not a replacement or a substitute for it. It can be terribly frustrating for a doctor or teacher to show up for a consultation and see a room full of people, all asking questions and arguing over a treatment or educational plan. While we can all agree that “it takes a village” to raise a child, there is also the case where “too many cooks spoil the broth”. It doesn’t take four adults to hear the information from the doctor or teacher; there are two parents, and those parents – should they both desire to be present at the parent-teacher conference, for example – can receive the information, ask the appropriate questions, and then inform the step-parent of the information.

Step-parents can also cause problems when they either overly defend their spouse or on the other hand, tries to force a best friend relationship with the other parent. Neither are appropriate or helpful to the co-parenting relationship. Some step-parents DO become allies and great friends with their spouse’s ex; most do not, and forcing a relationship is not going to make one appear. Ex-spouses or partners also do not need any fuel added to the fire if they have a contentious relationship. A new spouse who wants to step into the shoes of the parent and overstep his or her bounds is not going to be well-received, and will only cause pushback from the other parent.

As a step-parent, your best bet is to know your role. Know that your step-daughter does love you and should be allowed to do so. But, also know that your opinion as to that child comes 3rd, AFTER her parents. Help out if asked, such as with homework, rides to school, making sure that soccer uniform is clean, but step back and let your spouse who IS the parent BE the parent. The parent makes the ultimate decisions, and the parents should be the ones speaking with one another about all things related to those decisions.