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Help! New to being a step parent, in fact new to being a parent full stop and need some advice.

(22 Posts)
voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 12:01:27


I am three months into a relationship with a woman who has recently split up with her husband. She has two kids, a four year old boy and a two year old girl. The relationship is going great, and there are no problems with the two year old, but the four year old has recently started acting up and not sleeping through the night and I'm really worried that it might be to do with me. I get on really well with him, he's a lovely little boy, but I am concerned. I should mention that I am not staying the night at the moment, as both the mother and myself don't want to freak him out any more than he has been by the split.

Also, what do I do when he acts up when I am playing with him, say when his mother is bathing the younger one or when she is making their dinner etc! I know he can't get away with tantrums etc, but at the same time is it to early for me to be disciplining him? I don't want to replace his father or anything and I'm worried about the differences in boundaries that we might have.

Any advice would be gratefully received both on these matters and on anything else to do with suddenly becoming a step parent with no prior experience!

tittytittyhanghang Sat 29-Sep-12 12:08:48

not a sp but my dp is to our ds1 (who is 12 now but was when we g0t together). My advice is to ask your dp what she would expect you to do and go with that.

purpleroses Sat 29-Sep-12 12:17:17

I would say that if you're the one in the room with him, and he's playing up, then tell him to stop whatever he's doing wrong, repeat it more sternly if necessary, and if that doesn't work, then call his mum from the next room to do any further disciplining. As you grow more comfortable with him, it will be you or his mum who discipline him when he's with you, rather than his father. Best thing you can do to make sure he feels your're not replacing his dad is to speak well of his dad, to show you support his feelings towards his dad. You don't necessarily have to have precisely the same boundaries as his dad, but good to be aware if they are different. Talk to your girlfriend - she'll know if they are.

Could be any number of reasons why he's waking more at night - to do with adjusting to his parents splitting up, you being around, or quite possibly neither. Does your girlfirned have a view as to what's causing it?

showtunesgirl Sat 29-Sep-12 12:18:34

OP, I don't have any advice but just wanted to say that you sound really nice. smile

voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 12:31:36

Thank you for the advice! With the disciplining thing I will try that, it sounds like a very good way of doing things without him feeling that I am being overbearing or him starting to view me as a soft touch!

And I think i will have a chat with dp and see how she thinks I should handle these things. I must say so far what I've seen is similar to how I would think I would handle things, but like I say, I'm not the parent so there are different rules, at least for the time being.

As for the sleeping thing, we have discussed this, obviously as I'm not staying over at the moment it's not me suffering, but both of us have discussed what it might be and at the moment we are none the wiser. I guess we shall just have to take things slowly with him and hope that it gets better as time goes by.

Thanks once again for you help!

voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 12:37:38

P.S. With regard to their real dad, I always try to speak highly of him, he's given me no reason to dislike him, other than acting off a bit of sometimes with dp, but this is to be expected as he's still hurting from the split. Other than that he's fine with her and more than fine with the kids, I have no contact with him.

missymoomoomee Sat 29-Sep-12 12:52:34

This woman has recently split with her husband, and now 3 months into a relationship she has brought you into her childrens lives already?

That is far too much too soon, even though you aren't staying the night 3 months into a relationship is too soon for kids to be involved at all, especially as the split from their father is so recent.

It could very well be the 4yo is totally confused by the (in his eyes) replacement of his father in the home. I would have waited until at the very least 6 months into the relationship, preferably 9 months to a year to make sure it is totally serious before bringing the kids in.

I don't know what to suggest as its already been done now, other than to maybe back away and concentrate on you and your girlfriend just now and leave it longer before reintroducing your relationship into the childrens lives.

voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 13:04:20

I was a little worried that is was quite quick, but unfortunately I wouldn't get much of a chance to see her at all if it wasn't for me going over to her place, therefore the children kind of ended up meeting me. She and I are on a limited income and she doesn't have much childcare in the evenings for us to see each other outside of the home. As it is I only go over twice a week or so, and usually after they have gone to bed.

But I do agree it may be a bit too much too soon. There trouble is backing off on seeing the kids means backing off on seeing her as well, so we shall have to see about that.

voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 13:12:21

P.S. I should point out that I have known my dp for over a year before we started to see each other. We never got together when she was married because she was married, but when that ended we ended up together. So we think it's serious!

missymoomoomee Sat 29-Sep-12 13:13:01

It is hard I know, but the kids should be the main priority here. If you and your girlfriend are serious, and it is going to be long term, a few more months at the beginning of the relationship of tiptoe-ing around isn't going to make a lot of difference to you and her, but it will to the kids. They have had their worlds turned upside down with their parents splitting up and adding you into the mix is just complicating it further for them.

voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 13:25:15

That's sounds fair enough, but the fact remains that I will have some contact with them, so I did need a bit of help and advice here. But I do appreciate your input here, I will try and back off where I can. Please believe me when I say the kids are the main priority in both our lives!

missymoomoomee Sat 29-Sep-12 13:46:09

Sadly I think you looking after the 4yo when their mother is doing something else is maybe part of the problem here.

Look at it from his viewpoint, he had his mum and dad living together, all of a sudden his dad isn't there and he has to visit him instead, then some bloke (sorry) comes in and 'takes his dads place', all the while this guy is saying how great his dad is. I assume all this is around the time he is starting school too.

Its a lot for a child of that age to take in.

In practical terms you can't discipline him in any way yet, thats the job of his parents, you need to either stop being alone with him for now or call his mother if he plays up. The kids can't have someone they don't know telling them off after 3 months just because he is going out with their mum.

voyager123 Sat 29-Sep-12 13:58:22

Yeah, you maybe right there, I was just trying to help out where I could, perhaps I should stop. Cheers for the advice.

missymoomoomee Sat 29-Sep-12 14:04:41

Its lovely of you to want to help out, and its hard seeing someone you care for struggle when you could help out, but sometimes the best short term solution isn't the best long term one.

You sound like a really decent, kind man, and that will shine through when the kids process whats gone on with their parents, your girlfriend is very lucky to have someone who cares about her and her children so much smile

LaplanderAndProud Sat 29-Sep-12 14:06:21

I don't have any advice (sorry) but I wanted to say that whatever happens, you sound like a great person who really is thinking about the kids as the main priority- no advice or anything though.

purpleroses Sat 29-Sep-12 15:47:33

"The kids can't have someone they don't know telling them off after 3 months just because he is going out with their mum. "

I find that a very strange idea - kids are told off by nursary staff, babysitters, or friends parents if they're looking after them. These people are no less "strangers" than a boyfriend. It's up to their mum of course how she thinks they should be disciplined, but if you are the nearest adult to them when they're messing around, it's quite natural, and right, for any adult to tell them not to.

When I was a single mum with kids of 4 and 1, having someone (anyone!) entertain the 4 year old whilst I sorted the youngest out was more than welcome. The OP hasn't suggesting that he's being left in sole charge of hte 4 year old, but if your round a friend's house, it's not really going to be possible to avoid ever being in the same room without the mother present

I don't think it's wrong that the kids have met you after 3 months - and you can't exactly "unmeet" them now can you? You can take it reasonably slowly in terms of treating them like you might any friend of yours who has children around - ie just be a friend of their mum's for now, and see how that goes.

missymoomoomee Sat 29-Sep-12 16:01:24

I maybe didn't explain very well.

Nursery teachers, friends parents, babysitters etc are different, they aren't coming and assuming a role in the mothers life that their father recently had, if he then went and started telling the kids off, when the parents break up hasn't yet been properly established in their minds, let alone the new relationship, its just going to be a confusing mess for them. Its all so recent for them they need time to adjust to one situation before being put into another.

awingandaprayer Sat 29-Sep-12 22:03:17

I've been a stepmum for nearly 10 years. Initially to my exH children with whom I still have a good relationship and now to my current DPs DS.

My advice would be to take it very very slowly and patiently. You have already been introduced to them and seem to spend plenty of time with them and I'd agree with the advice to start by treat them like you might any friend's children. Keep in mind (as you are) that they may have mixed feelings about their mums new relationship and take things at their pace. My exH eldest who was 6 at the time didn't speak to me for nearly a year. I didn't spend much time with the 3 of them at the start as a result and gradually I would spend more time there but would let him spend time with his Dad whilst I did something else in the house. Gradually he came around.

As you gradually get to know them and they get to trust you then you can start to take on more 'parenting' type roles although in my experience you will have a better relationship with them if you think of the step-parent role as more like a close uncle type figure rather than a father-figure.

I think that discipline is a particularly difficult one and agree that there is a difference from just being a nursery teacher, or babysitter.

To start with I'd just get your girlfriend to do any disciplining or organising (such as telling them when to go to bed etc). I left that sort of thing for a very long time (at least a couple of years) and then moved on to invoking their father eg 'your Dad has said its time for bed' or 'your Dad wouldn't be happy for you to do that'. It took several more years of that before I would do these sort of things off my own back.

I also found a book 'How to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk' very useful for coming up with ways to interact and discipline if necessary without coming into too much conflict. It has also made me a more resourceful parent to my own child.

I would never, even 10 years later, get into a situation where I had to impose a serious punishment or be the person to do a serious telling off. That's their parents job and I always felt it would undo all my hard work.

As a result I still have a very good relationship with my exH DCs and they sometimes even confide in me or use me as a sounding board for things even before discussing it with their parents.

Hope it all goes well.

voyager123 Sun 30-Sep-12 02:36:34

Thanks for that advice, it sounds like what I've been trying to do, leaving the discipline thing to mum and being more of an uncle type figure, just playing and suchlike with them. The book you recommend sounds very good, I have got nephews and I always said I wanted them to be able to come to me with things that couldn't talk to their parents about, that may help in both situations!

I do also agree that their is a very big difference between me and a babysitter or teacher, the approach has to be different, but I was worried about how to define that difference, the advice from all the posters here has given me a lot to work with, so thank you!

Kaluki Sun 30-Sep-12 13:53:14

You sound lively and I think you are doing everything right so far.
I don't agree with waiting a set period of time before introducing dc to potential step parents.
I had been seeing DP for a month when we met each others kids. We introduced each other as mummy's/daddy's friend at first and then after a while the dc told us we should be bf and gf so we let them think it was their idea!
The most important thing is to be there but in the background iyswim which is what you are doing anyway.
The 4 year old is probably testing you and seeing how far he can push you, which all kids do. You must be firm with him but defer to his Mum if he doesn't do as he is told.

Kaluki Sun 30-Sep-12 13:54:16

Not lively

alikat724 Sun 30-Sep-12 16:37:12

Your original post is a good measure of your concern for doing things in a caring and gentle fashion for the childrens' sake. I don't agree with waiting a set period of time either - every couple/family will be different in this regard. I met my stepson (11 at the time) when I had been dating his dad for just 2 months as that was right for us, but in the past he had waited much longer before introducing girlfriends; I think this to be a good indication of how serious we were even that early on, and we are now married with a DD of our own. Given that you have known their mum for over a year already, I don't think you would have jumped into this and you have a strong basis of trust. Your GF will trust you as a friend AND as her BF. Is there anything else going on for the 4 year old? Has he just started full-time preschool, moved home or changed childcare situations? You may not be the only "big" thing going on in his life! And definitely do some reading (I read "How to be a Happy Stepmum" by Lisa Doodson, possibly a bit gender biased in this instance) as this give you good resources to call upon when faced with very difficult and emotionally charged situations. Good luck!

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