My oldest son is 13. He is mentally handicapped and up until he was 4 it was just him and I. Then in 2005 I met the man who would become my future husband. We have been married for 7 years now and have a beautiful 5 year old son together. Sounds like a happily ever after right? Well, not exactly. When I married my husband I not only gained another biological child, I also gained two step children. This was not something that was in my life plan but there I was, technically with four children to care for. Even though my step kids did not live with us it was still a whole different world. People who are in a mixed family like mine understand this, and those who do not may find that they overestimate their patience and ability to deal with kid that are not their own. The good news is that I have learned but it was not something that happened overnight. It took years.

secrets to raising a mixed family

Maybe I was not as open as I thought when it came to step children. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was overly protective of my handicapped child. I think it was likely a mixture of things. Either way, the relationship I had with my step kids was tense at best. My step daughter was only 10 when I was married and my step son was 7. The pain was still raw from their parents’ divorce but my mind was closer to home-with my own son and how he would be treated by his new family. I would venture a guess that most people coming into a step family situation have felt this way. It took a very long time for me to come around to the fact that I was not acting like a good step parent, but when I did I was fully committed. Now, my step daughter, aged 16, lives with us and I could not be happier. I adore my step son and would be glad to have him live with us if he ever makes the choice too. How did I get to this point? You will just have to keep reading to find out my own personal secrets!

The first thing that I will tell you is that being a step parent is very complicated. You have to love your step kids AND your biological kids. Of course your biological kids will have a different kind of your love and this is okay! What you have to do is figure out what type of love to share with your step kids. This can only come after a good long period of getting to know each other. There is no time limit on this but for me it took nearly 7 years!

The second thing I did was employ understanding. Before I could get close to my step kids I had to understand them; how they felt, why they do things they do, how they feel about you, etc. Without understanding you will not get anywhere. If you don’t get anywhere then expect an uncomfortable life.

The third thing is to get along with their other bio parent as best you can. They knew from the start I did not like their mother and this had an effect on the relationship I had with them. That was my mistake to own and I own it. Once I made a concentrated effort to change this things got better for our little family.

Finally, I had to realize that it was okay to love my step kids without it being a betrayal to my biological kids. This is something that concerned me and something I know concerns other step parents. You want to be fair and impartial and sometimes that is difficult but not impossible. Once I allowed myself to show my step kids that I loved them they felt freer to love me back. I will not lie and say that things are always picture perfect. Nothing ever is. I will say though that I no longer refer to them as my step kids-I simply call them my kids, and for anyone who has issue with that I tell them that the only steps in my home are the ones leading up to my front door. The keys are love, patience, inclusion and knowing when to be a mom/dad and when to step aside and let the bio parents handle things. It is a delicate balance but one that is so worth it. The proof is in the love.

About the Author

Trish Davis is a blogger for Moments of Elegance and a guest blogger for Mom at Last. She is a mom of 4 including 2 awesome step kids, wife to the greatest husband and dad ever and enjoys living life as a work at home mom!

Image courtesy of arztsamui /

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