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Expert advice

28th Sep 2023

Expert advice on how to introduce a potential step-parent to your kids


Families come in all shapes and sizes with many changes occurring throughout life.

If you’re thinking about introducing your new partner to your kids, who may eventually become a step-parent, it can be scary.

Not knowing how your kids will react, and whether or not they will be accepting of a new dynamic.

The ISPCC has put together some advice for parents on managing this kind of situation:

Talk with your child

Involve your child in your life.

Tell them you have made a new special friend and that you would like them to get to know each other.

Take things slowly

Introduce your child to your new partner gently and slowly.

Plan a fun activity for the family and bring your new partner along. Your partner may not love the child on first meeting, this is natural.

Allow the relationship to develop and for both parties to become comfortable with each other.

Discuss any big decisions as a family first

It is usually once a new partner moves in that they become a step-parent. Involve the kids in this process.

Talk in advance about what this will look like and how it may change current family life – be clear about the positives and the negatives.

Talk about parenting boundaries

When there are young children involved, the step-parent must be allowed to manage behaviour if they are being asked to care for the children.

It is important to discuss your views on managing behaviour in advance and agree how to handle issues. Work with each other.

Discuss parenting styles and how you were parented as a kid. What do you want for your child and how can the step-parent support you in this?

Having three parents

Your child has two parents usually and may not feel they have room for a third. Be gentle in your approach.
Don’t get into a situation whereby the child feels the biological parent is being replaced. Always respect the child’s feelings.

Respect is crucial

Always respect the biological parent of the child and respect the role the child’s biological parent plays in their life.

Do not suggest or encourage the child to call a step-parent Dad or Mam. Make sure to talk with the other biological parent about this new important person in your child’s life.

Maintain your relationship

Remember you are a couple and not just parents. Take time out as a couple and to talk about the challenges of parenting with another adult who is not the parent. It is hard for both of you.

The step-parent may have to learn how to share you with your child and that you have to juggle meeting their needs and those of your child.

Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation

Both parties need to acknowledge that this may be hard for the child. They may find it hard to adapt to sharing their parent.

Maybe they have been hurt in the past. Involve them. Talk about things in the home and plan changes together. Explore issues as they arise and find solutions together.

Make time for fun

Do fun things together! Also allow both the parent and stepparent have one-to-one time with the kid. This will help build the relationship for both parents and child.

Build trust

Trust each other. If you cannot trust your partner with your little – or big – ones then you need to think about what is happening. Take everything your kid says seriously.

They are not out to hurt you or break up a relationship. Hear them.


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