Are you a step-parent? If yes, then you have taken a challenging but rewarding responsibility. The stigma of being a step-parent is strong. Although, many movies and fairytale stories don’t show the hard work many step-parents put in to bond with their stepchildren or make their families happy.
Blended families are on the rise, as divorced persons try to move on and start a new relationship. Therefore, the stepparent-stepchild relationship is critical if a blended family is to succeed. A positive relationship with all family members is vital for a united household.
As you proceed towards remarriage and a new family with excitement, your kids or your new spouse’s kids may not be nearly as excited. They will likely be unsure about what the future of the new family will be like. Hence, their reaction to this new situation might not be pleasant.
They’ll also be worried about living with new step siblings, whom they are not familiar with or like. Some children may try to resist you or your new partner. Yet, a step-parent can be a protector for her stepchild, an extra adult who cares and provides support when needed. The following tips can help you to bond with your stepchild as a parent and friend.
8 Tips to Help You Bond With Your Stepchild
1. Plan Ahead
Moving on from a broken marriage or the loss of a marriage mate is never easy. So when you find a new loving relationship, the excitement can be overwhelming. However, you want to avoid the danger of rushing into remarriage without putting a good foundation.
If you expose children to too many changes in a short time, this will rattle them. Therefore, you need to be patient and take things slowly. Give some time to allow everyone to become used to each other. Then, you can begin to discuss the idea of coming together as a new family. Blended families are most successful when couples wait for two years or more after a divorce to remarry.
You have to discuss with your partner the kind of relationship you desire with your stepchildren. Moreover, this helps you and your partner have a common idea of reaching this goal. Since your partner knows your intention, they will become comfortable allowing your relationship with the children to form naturally. Another area you and your partner need to plan for is situations that have the potential for conflict.
2. Good Impression
Keep it brief. It will help if you try to make your first meeting as short as possible. This takes the pressure off both you and your stepchild. Also, avoid long dinners or buying expensive gifts. Try to make an instant bond of friendship with your stepchild to prevent misinterpretation and, subsequently, rejection.
Keep your initial expectations in check. Meanwhile, you should avoid any situation that may be excessive. Even with your good intention, you don’t want to come on too strong to the child. Instead, let your stepchild take the lead and set the pace of the relationship. When your stepchild is ready for a closer connection, he or she’ll let you know.
3. Support Your Partner
Children often hang in the hope that their biological parents will get back together. So when the child sees the other parent getting closer to you, they may feel betrayed. Children can find it hard to cope with the conflicting emotions that this new situation brings. You can ease these feelings by always speaking respectfully of their biological parents.
Besides, make it clear that you will never come in the middle of them.
You and your partner need to agree on a set of rules and methods to raise the children—for example, rewards, punishments, chores, allowances, bedtimes, and homework. The adjustment is much easier if the parents are in agreement.
4. Build Trust With Your Stepchild
Trust is important in every relationship. However, trust is not easy to earn. Take the necessary time to build trust with your stepchild. You can build this trust in the way you handle different situations as the child watches. Children can perceive if you are dishonest or insincere. Therefore, the way you handle privacy, how much you pay attention, and interest are key.
When you eventually win their trust, you can even be their confidant. Having access to information, they might refuse to give their biological parents. This will also eventually strengthen the bond with your stepchild.
5. Support Your Step Child’s Interest
Be open to possibilities with your stepchild, show interest in what they like. When possible, you can engage in fun activities with them. Moreover, this can create an opportunity for both of you to catch up in an informal setting. Below are some activities you can explore to help you bond with your stepchild.
- Offer to help them with their homework. Always keep your comments encouraging and constructive.
- Attend a sports game he or she participates in. Your presence alone is a good sign, even if you don’t know how you can encourage them.
- Help to prepare them for an upcoming event. For instance, you can help improve your stepchild’s driving skills as they prepare to get their driving license.
6. Treat Stepchildren as Family
Try as much as possible not to treat your stepchild as special. If you treat them as a guest, they won’t feel they are part of the family. However, you want to engage them in all family activities as possible. Giving them chores and responsibilities is a vital way to show them they belong to the family. Further, listen to them, respect their opinions and even praise them when necessary.
7. Set Reasonable Expectations
Sometimes you might tend to forget that you have a shared history with your biological children. Always remember not to expect the same response or reaction from your stepchild. Give your new family time to develop its dynamics without pressure.
Slowly, a new relationship pattern for your family will take shape, and then, you can influence this relationship positively. However, do not expect your new family to have the same interactions, feelings, and bonds as your former one.
8. Allow Personal Relationship To Thrive
Allowing personal relationships to thrive will help you bond with your stepchild in so many ways. You should make sure that your stepchild gets alone time with their biological parents. It will be best if you don’t appear as a barrier to their relationship.
As a result, they will feel more secure through the changes in their lives. After the kids have spent some private time with their biological parents, they might be more excited to spend time with you.
It is also possible that you and your stepchild may not find the right balance in your relationship. The most important thing is that you remain committed to making it work. Perhaps, it might be that letting go of the possibility of a great bond with your stepchild is the ingredient missing from having a civil relationship. Therefore, you should make reasonable efforts and still remember your boundaries. Keeping the whole family happy is the most important goal to have in mind.
Nanna Daniels is a legal practitioner and writer. His practice as a lawyer and a writer is as diverse as his client base. His client ranges from government bodies to banks, private companies in real estate, energy companies, telecommunications to small businesses, families, and individuals.
He is a passionate and diligent analyst of family, sports and business concepts, providing in-depth knowledge and analysis. He has covered topics ranging from family, parenting to entrepreneurship.