How to Bond With Your Stepchildren And Build A Great Blended Family
Stepparenting can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Learn how to cultivate a healthy relationship with your stepkids.
If parenting is said to be the most difficult job in the world, then step parenting must often feel if it is close to impossible. Many remarriages include children from previous relationships, so blended families are more common than ever.
When families “blend,” though, it rarely progresses smoothly. Some children may resist the change, while you the step parent can become frustrated. Your new family doesn’t function in the same way as your previous one. While blending families requires adjustment for everyone involved, these tips below can help your new family work through the growing pains.
No matter how strained or difficult things seem at first, with open communication, mutual respect, and plenty of love and patience, you can develop a close bond with your new stepchildren and form an affectionate and successful blended family.
Seven Tips For Step Parenting And Blended Families
Focus on individual relationships
Some parents are eager to be “one big happy family” early on. But it’s often a good idea to take things slow and put more emphasis on nurturing individual relationships. You need time alone with your step children to get to know them. Learn to appreciate who they are and what they like, away from the rest of the family.
Set aside fifteen or thirty minutes of special time with your stepchild. It’s a time when the child gets to do whatever they want, within the limits of safety and reason. Avoid instructing, teaching, or critiquing your stepchild at this time. Just follow their lead and fill them with appreciation and respect.
Moving back and forth from one household to another isn’t easy. Transition days can be tough. It is a time when big feelings can erupt and small incidents easily set children off. If a child begins to cry about going to mommy’s house, lean in, make eye contact, and listen. If a child is allowed to cry, instead of burying her feelings away, chances are her day will go better. Be sure to build in extra time around transitions in case big feelings do surface. This is so you can give your child extra attention before and after they change households.
Laughter and play are a great antidote to tension in any family. In blended families it can work strategically during transition days. Or in building the relationship between step parents and step children. Look for places where your children laugh and keep that laughter going. Play and laughter can reduce tension and unify stepfamilies in a wonderful way.
As a step parent, you need someone that you can talk to. You need to be able to relieve the stress of parenting in a blended family. Talking about the stress of blended families is an essential survival tool.
Find someone outside of your family to get support from. A friend, a neighbour, another parent or stepparent—someone who can just listen without giving advice. Allow each person to take 15 to 30 minutes to talk, or cry, or laugh about how hard stepfamilies can be at times.
A step dad can feel like the odd parent out if mom and her daughter have a ritual of rollerblading every weekend and the step dad isn’t so good on wheels. Find activities that stepparents and stepchildren can do together to bridge the gap. One stepdad I know plays tennis with his stepson every Saturday afternoon while the mom takes their daughters to swimming lessons. Remember to create new traditions of your own.
Although it may seem obvious, it’s not always easy. When you’re angry at the parent who lives in the other household, keep negative comments from the children. All children want their parents to be respected no matter the conflict between them. And all parents deserve to be respected, even in their darkest moments. Children shouldn’t be in the middle of conflict between separated parents.
What children really want is for their parents to get along. But because that’s not always possible, at least be respectful of one another.
Like we already established, step parenting is challenging. Even the most dedicated step parent can get overwhelmed, and on the way to burn-out. You need a place to go to blow off steam and to feel connected with friends and other family. That might mean taking a good novel to another room of the house for a while. Or calling a loved one while walking around the block when things get a bit too much. Just as parents need time to refuel and reconnect with people they are close to, stepparents also need a respite from the stress of stepparenting.
Also read: The Best Parenting Hacks You Ever Read!