how to step-parent IME

How to be a step-parent IME

my experience on this topic-

I grew up in a household where I had a step-monster and deceased mom. My dad was an addict, and step was his enabler. Stuff was not pretty.
I’ve also been in relationships with men who had kids.
So I saw a few things along the way…. Maybe they can help someone else?


the rules of the house – you and parent live together, so you and parent determine what they are. And you and parent enforce those rules.

But primary should be that you and parent run the show as a mutual respect zone.

you are the not-the-parent person. So mom and dad make the rules for the kid and you listen and enforce them. If you disagree, then bring it up away from the kid. Almost like an older sibling to the kid.

If there is a custodial or visitation order, you are legally bound to adhere to it. You don’t want to go to jail for trying to sabotage it. If there is a fight, it’s between the parents and the court. Not you.

to the kid – you are their tribe. Someone they can go to if someone is causing them hurt or fear. You are their safety zone.

You are the friendLY (not friend) of the kid. You can do fun things with them as long as mom and dad agree.

And you’re backup or support to mom and dad. If mom and dad are arguing, unless it infringes on your rights, butt out. Exception being if you think it endangers the child to remain silent. Or if it impacts your relationship with the parent, you get to put in your POV. (with your partner only)

This role may include being chauffeur, babysitter, and cook. But not slave. The parents are the primary guardians of the kid. You are the fallback plan. Not the one who stays home with their kid while they get to live their lives.

You are not there to take over the place of the parent. And as person-of-authority, you can and should ask for and get respect in your own home and there should be consequences if you don’t get that. You get to be heard.

IMO it’s really rude and hurtful to the other parent to get called parent-names by the child. So think of a name that says loved, respected one who lives in house but isn’t the parent that you, parents and kid like. Maybe not aunt/uncle either though? You could do the Southern thing and be Mr or Miss first-name. How does kid introduce you? My parent’s live-in partner. Or my step-parent.

You are not the enemy camp, or messenger between warring parents. Nor the whipping post of either parents or kid.

Once those boundaries are in place, have fun with kid and parents. Build like and love will come. Unless you’re an ogre?


How to blend a family, where one has kids, other has kids and you two have kids? If it’s house rules of mutual respect and parents of child make the rules, then there won’t be too much variance between the kids. Plan activities that include all the household when possible to create a cooperative and cohesive unit. Be thoughtful of each other and the individual kids should all feel valued. And so will the adults.


How to be a step if the other parent dies – Be sensitive to the fact that there will always be a person-sized hole in their hearts and family, that you cannot fill. And that is in no way your fault or your duty to do so. Give them alone time to focus on the deceased parent, without your presence. Or at least be discreet, in the background. And let them talk about the deceased without feeling like they owe you more than them.

Please feel free to add from your own experience. 🙂

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