What happens when the child actually INVITES you into their lives as a parent? I’m not just talking about the occasional request to hear what your view is. This is an implicit request that looks like this:
–Will you be my parent?
–Of course, you are my parent.
My experience in my own stepfamily and in the lives of my clients in remarriage is that, while not intentionally so on the child’s part, this is a big time set up.
Never assume because your stepchild asks your opinion about something that this means he/she has invited you in to the world of parenting. Tread very lightly.
Also remember, the choice is ultimately YOURS. An invitation is just that–and it can be respectfully declined.
Shortly after telling me she wanted me to be one of her parents, she declared that she wanted “belly piercing”. She was 15 years old by this time, and if she were my daughter, it would be an adamant no (I’d already been through this with my own daughters at that age).
Her mom and dad were fine with it, it seems. This is when I told her the difference between a parent and an ally. Her parents thought body piercing was ok. I didn’t. And there is no way I was going to walk onto that minefield!
Their daughter–their decision... 1. Don’t parent.2. Don’t try to be their friend; be an ally.
3. Do try to see them, hear them, and be an adult they can come to value and respect.
4. Always model an environment of kindness and respect.
5. Keep your personal boundaries intact.
6. If you are invited to be a parent, think long and hard before you agree to it. Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide what you are comfortable with and what you are not.