I have so much respect for women and men that have made the choice to participate in raising children that are not their own. Once upon a time, I was a single mom and there were many moments where I struggled with issues related to my own child. I can only imagine what it takes to yield responsibility for someone else’s child!!
In the African culture, it’s not uncommon for both males and females to be raising “unbiological” children, whether from the local community, on behalf of a sibling or step children.
So just how do you go about raising this child?
Building a relationship with a child takes time, just like any other relationship. You need to earn each other’s trust, do this in stages and don’t expect things to be perfect all the time. Sometimes it will be difficult to build that bond, or it may not happen at all. Be sincere with the child, pretending and bribing with gifts can backfire.
Discuss role expectations with your partner. Your partner may not know how far to stick his/her hand out. Be inclusive and involve them around big and small decisions in your child’s life. If not, your partner may feel isolated in the process.
Don’t take rejection personally. Children don’t understand the dynamics behind the step-parenting issues, and most times they will show more favour toward their natural parent than to you, especially if the child is older or has experienced their parents in a relationship (e.g. post-divorce). Understand that the child may not be old enough to make sense of things and may need time to adjust. Try not to take everything personally although this may be testing at first.
It takes a whole lot of patience. You will most likely have more patience and tolerance for your own child than for somebody else’s. If you are raising someone else’s child, the disciplining process becomes complicated and it’s easier to lose your temper easier than you would with your own child. Once you have built the trust, it will be easier to be firm with the child when the situation calls for it.
Know when to speak up. Step parents or foster parents often struggle with communicating with feelings openly, at the fear of offending the other parent or child or being misinterpreted. An open and upfront discussion as issues arise should help you clear the air and avoid the build-up of resentment.
Ultimately, the aim is to ensure that the needs of the children involved are prioritised. Separation or divorce can be very traumatic and they need a safe and loving environment in which to express their feelings and be supported.
Are you a step mom or step dad? What are the best and most difficult aspects of this form of parenting?