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10 Ways to Be the Best Stepparent Possible

September 20, 2012

We asked the experts this question, and 62% agree: stepparents should discipline their steppkids as they would their own children. What else does it take to be a great stepparent? Here's what they had to say:

1. Follow, don't lead. While each parent may have their own parenting style, as the stepparent, it's important to follow the birth parent's lead.

Consistency in parenting style will help foster feelings of security in the child. These feelings will build the level of trust the child has for you. - Michelle LaRowe

2. Be a supporter. Children always need allies. This is especially true for children who are adapting to a new stepparent.

Focus on being the best cheerleader you can be to your stepchild. Even when it seems unwelcome, supporting his interests, attending his school events and being a consistent present person in his life will go a long way in communicating that you care. -Michelle LaRowe

3. Expect storms. The dynamic of every newly created stepfamily is form, storm, norm, and perform - and it can years for the "norm" to take hold.

Take advantage of all safe stress-releasing outlets, such as support groups or good friends, either in person or online. You might find solutions, or just a place to let off some steam. -Paula Bisacre

4. Keep some old traditions and make new ones. Reinvent birthday parties. Celebrate good report cards with a trip to the ice cream store. Make your kid's favorite meal, create a silly dance together, or plan a special outing.

If your kids always went to the beach on a particular holiday, and his always went to the mountains, alternate the destinations from year to year. Set up two Christmas trees - one with a novel theme, the other more familiar. Make a new menorah and set it alongside the old one. - Paula Bisacre

5. Hold regular family meetings that appeal to all. Many teenagers abhor forced family bonding. Meeting at a favorite restaurant is a great incentive.

Center a meeting around a cookie-baking or fondue party. Create movie or book nights with discussion - and involve your children in choosing a topic from a list compiled by you and your spouse. - Paula Bisacre

6. Use your resources. Discover the many resources available to help you navigate stepfamily life. It's never too late! Check out these notable nonprofit organizations: National Stepfamily Resource Center and the National Family Resiliency Center. - Paula Bisacre

7. Build trust with your stepchild. The first development task in any relationship is to build trust. In order for you to trust your stepchild, he/she must trust you first. To build trust, spend quality time with the child, letting them take the lead on what to do.

Children of divorce may be hesitant to build relationships because they are scared to lose someone again. This process is going to take time so is patient. -Stacy York

8. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Be clear and concrete in your words. Do not use hidden messages or agendas. If you make a promise or say that you are going to do something, follow through and do it. -Stacy York

9. Have family meetings. Often times, kids have many opinions and thoughts, but never get to voice them. The purpose of the family meeting should allow everyone in the family to communicate things that are going well and things that are not. Then, work as a team to solve the problems in the family.

It is crucial for stepchildren to have a voice. That does not mean that they get to make all the rules. They need to be listened to, considered, and get a response to their concerns. -Stacy York

10. Act as a consultant.
There is often conflict over who should "parent" the children. Set the precedent that while you may not be the child's parent, you will consult with the other parent. This lets children know that the parents are a unit who cannot be split, but are working together to communicate and solve problems. -Stacy York

Written By Michelle LaRowe, Paula Bisacre and Stacy York for YourTango.com.

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