Bonus Parents

Step-parenting has gotten a bad rap. 

Even though there are millions of loving people who married into families and were exemplary loving parents, the term step-mother or step-father still carries a negative connotation.  Perhaps it is from the fairytales where the “wicked stepmother” ruled the roost with an iron fist.   Or perhaps it is from the newspaper stories of the abusive stepfather going off to jail.  Whatever the reasons, who would want to carry that label?  Enter the new millennium term: Bonus Parents. WOW, that is much friendlier and more pleasant. 

Why Bonus?

It seems that society is changing the way it looks at divorce and stepfamilies. And because most people think that “step” implies something negative, many people are scrapping the concept of “step-parent” and utilizing a new more positive idea. While bonus parents don’t replace one’s birth parents, they can certainly can be nurturing, caring adults who become significant positive relationships in a child’s life.  Considering an extra mom or dad as a bonus rather than a problem, may provide a helpful positive tone for everyone in the family system.

Parenting is not  Easy

Just being a parent in this day and age is hard enough. But entering in and helping to raise someone else’s children brings extra difficulties. There are no ex-parents. Your bonus children will always have those two biological parents. Regardless of how often or how seldom your bonus children have contact with their other biological parent, they were first part of that biological family. They will continue to live with that influence. 

Helpful tips for Bonus Parents

1. Don’t expect too much too soon. Love and relationships ordinarily develop over a period of time.  

2. Keep your marriage healthy. In bonus families, as in all families, one of the most important factors in a satisfactory family life is a strong bond between husband and wife.  

3. Avoid competing with your spouse’s “ex” or trying to take over the other parent’s role.  

4. Respect differences in histories and households. Keep in mind that you are the newcomer and that you will probably have to do most of the adjusting at first.  

5. Discipline carefully. Discipline causes the greatest number of problems for bonus parents. Responsibility for discipline should probably rest primarily with the biological parent in the early stages of the relationship in order for your relationship with the children to develop with time and with a minimum of conflict. 

6. Be aware of potential money problems. Money pressures are usually greater for bonus families. Your best remedy is clear and honest communication along with an extra helping of understanding and compassion. 

7. Be sensitive to sexual matters. It may be helpful to provide greater privacy for everyone — especially in the early months of your marriage. 

8. Don’t be surprised by anger in bonus children. Children are frequently very hurt and frustrated by the breakup of their parents. These feelings often come out as anger, which is sometimes expressed toward the bonus parent. Try to understand what causes that anger, and realize that some expression of these feelings is healthier than keeping them bottled up inside. 

There is help available

No one claims that blending a family is simple – it takes compassion, patience and hard work to create a healthy bonus family.  Glean information from websites, read books, join a support group, find a good therapist, join a healthy church or find whatever will help in your unique situation.  In many cases, bonus parenting can be the a silver lining that is cherished long after the storm of divorce past.  That’s a bonus!



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