Anyone who has ever been a step parent, or a step child, knows that this can be very tricky and challenging territory. Although it can go quite smoothly for some families, in many cases, blended families can really struggle. Each family and individual is different, but there are some universal techniques that can truly help these relationships go more smoothly, and even flourish.
Build a relationship with your step child
Relationships take work, and they don’t happen overnight. Relationships cannot be forced, and while the adult may want desperately to forge a bond with their step child, the feeling may not be mutual. It is important to not take this personally. The child may already be overwhelmed with the changes that have taken place in his or her family. These changes are out of their control, and that can feel frustrating. Trying to force a relationship on them before they are ready will not work. The best approach is to build slowly and pay attention to their cues.
Get to know them
A simple way to start is to just get to know them. Every child is different. Some are more naturally outgoing, some more reserved. Some children are more resilient. In these cases, they may be more readily accepting of a new person in their life. Older step children can be more difficult to get to know, which is normal. Show interest in their hobbies, activities and interests, but don’t overdo it.
Let them get to know you
Step parents have a lot to offer their step children. New interests, viewpoints and experiences, for example. Being open with them about life experiences, family history, hobbies and interests makes it easier for them to open up. If the child appears ready, spend some one-on-one time with them and encourage them to ask questions.
Show respect to the biological parent
Regardless of the nature of the step parents relationship with the biological parent, it is of the utmost importance to show respect for them, and their relationship with their children. Never badmouth the biological parent, or argue with them, particularly in front of the children. There may be times when this is difficult, especially if the biological parent is hostile.
It is important to support the rules and values of the other parent. Never play the children against them by not upholding their decisions to try to win favor with your step children. It will backfire.
Allow time to create a healthy relationship
Again, relationships with step children cannot be rushed. A good relationship will happen with time, and there are many factors that can influence this. It may be more difficult with older children than with younger children. Children are often hesitant to develop relationships with step parents because of loyalty to the other parent. This is normal. It is important to honor their feelings.
Being consistent is the best way to build trust, something else that can’t be rushed. It is important to realize that relationships between step parents and step children may simply not be the same as relationships with biological children. That is okay, and should not be seen as a failure. Mutual trust and respect should be the main goal.
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