“It is not easy for stepparents to connect with their stepchildren.” That’s a general perception. Yes, it might be difficult, but not impossible. What if you could build a healthy, positive relationship with your step-kids? Wouldn’t you want to give it a try? If yes, read on. We have five tips to help stepparents connect with their stepchildren.
5 Tips To Help Stepparents Connect With Their Stepchildren:
When you marry into an existing family, you have your work cut out for you. You need to build a relationship with kids who might not be ready for it.
A parent once commented that “children were the victims” in a separation/divorce. They are the ones with zero control over the situation. Divorce impacts them more, as everything they once knew changes irreversibly.
What can you do to overcome these challenges?
Different living arrangements and shared schedules are some of the changes children have to come to terms with. Add to it another partner, and it is only normal that children distrust the new individual.
Understand the Child:
Your stepchildren may be downright rude or cold to you in the initial months. Don’t take it personally. They, too, have had to process and adjust to a lot of changes.
Children process emotions by acting out and not with verbal skills. Their feelings of resentment towards you can be because:
- They blame you for their parents’ continued separation. Or view you as the obstacle hindering their parents from getting back together.
- They may withhold accepting you, as a sign of loyalty to their parents, or in fear of hurting them.
Understanding a child’s feelings will help you empathize with them and direct how you interact with them.
Give it Time:
Avoid rushing the children to form a relationship with you. They need time to accept and trust you.
You can let the child set the pace for building the relationship. This will show them that you care. Earn their trust and help them understand that you will support them.
Find common interests and activities to do together. Ask your partner for input and learn about your stepchild’s likes and dislikes. You might face resistance initially. But do not give up.
Also, try to keep your interactions genuine and straightforward. Children are great at reading adults and can tell when you are trying to please them. You should not be buying your way to their acceptance. Converse with the kids to allow them to get to know the real you. Let children accept you as a friend first.
Practice a Cordial Relationship with Other Parent:
To a kid, both their parents are equally important. This is why you need to try and develop a cordial relationship with the other parent. At least for the sake of the child.
Avoid criticizing or badmouthing the other parent in front of the child. Never put them in a position where they have to choose between their parents.
Try to be flexible and accommodating when it comes to deciding the child’s routine. The kids will appreciate you trying to smoothen the relationship with their parents. It will also reduce their guilt about being disloyal or fear of hurting the parent if they show any affection towards you.
As stepparents, nothing hurts more than having to hear, “you’re not my father/mother!” Kids should not feel that they are trying to replace or compete with their biological parents. As such, could:
- Have realistic expectations about developing a relationship with the kids. Rome was not built in a day!
- Make a parenting plan with your partner. Remember to cover the “how, what, when” part of parenting, especially if you are new to it. Do not presume to make decisions about the child without checking in with your partner, in the initial months.
- Set out family rules. Now that you’re all a family, brainstorm with the kids and set out rules and responsibilities acceptable to all. It can help kids feel that they are part of the family.
- Be firm, kind, compassionate, and patient in your interactions with the child. Try not to be too judgemental or critical, as they too like you, are finding their footing. Listening is the key to understanding them.
- Give the kids the time and space to do things with your partner alone.
As we mentioned, a stepparent can connect with their stepchildren. With lots of love, patience, and kindness, you can gradually win over the child. All children need is love, security, and someone to trust. Prove that you can give them all those, and your stepkids will learn to accept and cherish you.