As part of our Blended Family Friday series, each week we spotlight a different stepfamily to learn how they’ve worked to bring their two families together. Our hope is that by telling their stories, we’ll bring you closer to blended family bliss in your own life! Want to share your family’s story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starting a new life together as a blended family has its challenges. But they are not insurmountable.
This week, stepparents share their best tips for bonding with your stepkids.
1. Take your cues from the kids.
"It’s important to remember that your stepchildren had their world rocked, and they didn’t sign up for any of this. They didn’t sign up for having divorced parents, two houses, two separate set of belongings and they certainly didn’t sign up for a stepparent. Whether you are nice-as-pie or an evil stepparent straight from the fairytales, they will tell you how involved they want you to be in their world. You just have to pay attention. Don’t push the relationship if they seem to be putting walls up. Let them come to you, but make sure they know that the door is always open." -- Jamie Scrimgeour
2. Talk about what the kids like to talk about.
"Kids are naturally self-centered, so they may seem uninterested in what you're about, but they’ll love to talk about themselves. If they initiate a conversation with you, use that opportunity to engage with them. Ask them questions and then let them know how you experienced something similar and how you can relate to them. You can also ask them about their activities and hobbies. What do they love about it? What’s their favorite part? Least favorite part? Do they ever feel challenged? But pay attention to their cues. If they seem uncomfortable or aren’t engaging, let it go and try again another time. Forcing a conversation isn’t helpful to anyone." -- Jenna Korf
It’s important to remember that your stepchildren had their world rocked, and they didn’t sign up for any of this.
3. Give your stepchildren time alone with their biological parent.
"It may seem to the child that the one-on-one time they had with their mom or dad before you got married is over now that you are all living together. Make the effort to ensure your stepchild gets alone time with their parent. This will help build trust with your stepchild, and if any resentment is lingering or building, this will help alleviate it." -- Kelly Chaplin
4. Find activities that your stepkids enjoy and do them together.
"For example, if they like music or certain bands, you can take them to a concert to share in that experience with them, engaging in conversation to better understand what it is that they like about the activity. In return you can share things that you enjoy with your stepchild to teach them about you. Find activities that you both can enjoy together and make a habit to engage in them." -- Nicholas Golden
Find activities that you both can enjoy together and make a habit to engage in them.
5. Incorporate your stepchild in extended family traditions.
"Holidays and any family celebrations provide the perfect opportunity to get your stepchild involved with your extended family. It is also an excellent way for the stepchild to get to know more about you and for you and the family to get to know more about the child without the pressure of a one-on-one question and answer session." -- Kerri Mingoia
6. Start out as friends.
"Don't jump into the role of parent right off the bat or expect that unconditional love and trust will suddenly appear just because you have a new title. The most realistic goal for the first few years of your relationship with your stepchild is to be friends. Start out slow and let things develop naturally. As time goes on, a more meaningful relationship will genuinely develop. And remember: the relationship you share with your stepchild doesn’t have to resemble the one they share with their birth parents, nor does it have to compete with it." -- Kelly Chaplin
The relationship you share with your stepchild doesn’t have to resemble the one they share with their birth parents, nor does it have to compete with it.
7. Treat your stepkids the same way you treat your biological kids.
"When I was a child, my dad and his girlfriend attempted to blend our families. She had three kids and he had four. The way she treated us compared to her own children was painfully obvious to all of us. For example, one Easter she purchased lots of lavish gifts and clothes for her kids, while my siblings and I only received a basket of chocolate. I’ll never forget how terrible that felt. Even if your stepchildren are 'not your responsibility' or haven’t been that receptive to you being in their life, if you want to build a healthy relationship with them, always treat them the same as you treat your own children." -- Jamie Scrimgeour
8. Don’t hide or make yourself small.
"Many stepchildren grow up not knowing their stepparent’s favorite color, food or activity. Because stepparents often feel rejected by their step kids, sometimes they start hiding themselves or clamming up the children's presence. They actually end up excluding themselves. Instead, when the opportunity presents itself, speak up about things you enjoy doing. Talk about what excites you and what's important to you. You can do this by discussing these things with your partner in your stepchild’s presence, or directly with the child. Think about how you behave with your friends and do more of that. The more authentic you can be the easier it will be for them to get know the real you." -- Jenna Korf