When you think of the term “step-parent” what likely comes to mind are the wicked stigmas that the media presents. Be that as it may, step-parents can and do play a significant role in the lives of their step-children, particularly when they are younger. Developing a bond with your step-children might seem like an insurmountable task, but once you peel back all those layers, you’ll find that your relationship is critical for the happiness and stability of the family as a whole.
As a step-parent you can become an advocate, caretaker, and essential resource in the child’s life as they continue to grow and mature. If you are having a hard time getting to know your step-children, consider these great tips listed below.
Start by Building Trust
It can be very tempting to “bribe” your way into the hearts of your step-children by taking them on expensive trips, buying them gifts, and trying to be the all-around fun parent. The problem with this is that it creates a false sense of reality. Unless you’re going to continue with the spoiling and pampering, your step-children will feel you are trustworthy when the gifts and fun slow down. This, of course, sends the wrong message and creates distance in the relationship. While it is acceptable treat them to occasional gifts and take them to fun places, it should be done in moderation so that they don’t associate you with “things”.
Let Your Step-child Set the Pace
Depending on the age of your step-child, they may start off giving you a bit of “attitude” or resistance as you try to get to know them better. Don’t overdo it by forcing yourself or the idea of the blended family on them. Instead, allow them to set the pace at which you bond. Many times, the child is going through much more emotionally than you realize, and they need time to adjust to the changes that have taken place in their world. Show respect, give them space, and take your time in getting to know them.
Explain Your Role
It is not uncommon for children to believe that their step-parents are there to replace their biological parents. Early on in the relationship, you should sit down and define what your role is. By explaining that you’re adding to the love they will receive verses taking away from it, they will be more willing to open up to you and let you in.
Meet on Common Ground
Showing interest in what your step-children like to do can go far when trying to bond with them. For some, this might mean doing things you don’t necessarily enjoy doing or even know how to do well, but the effort will go a long way. If your step-child likes going roller skating, find a skating park in the area, purchase some skates and get to bonding! They will appreciate that you have taken an interest in some of the things that makes them who they are, and the relationship will begin to grow from there.
Show Your Support
If your step-children are involved in an after school activity such as a sports team, dance, or other activity, try your best to be there for them whenever you can. Going to a football game or dance recital and showing your support will give your step-child the comfort they need to open up to you. When they see that you care, they will begin to support your presence within the family.
Be Patient Yet Consistent
Bonding with your step-child can take a lot of time, patience and consistency. Many stepparents simply gave up because the child just, “didn’t like them no matter how hard they tried.” Keep in mind that this is a drastic change for your step-child, no matter how old they are, and they will need time to work through the transition. Show patience as they sort out their inner issues, however, show consistency in being in their corner when it counts most.
Step Out of the Picture
This might sound like a strange bit of advice, but it really can help you bond with your step-child. Sometimes, kids just want to be alone with their biological parent, and if you’re always around they may feel like they’ve lost not one but two parents as a result of you entering their life. Encourage healthy bonding and alone time for your step-child with their parents, while being there for them on the sidelines.
No one said that being a step-parent would be easy, but it can be one of the most rewarding roles you will ever play in your life. If you are having difficulty bonding with your step-children, you might want to consider seeking the help of a family therapist to navigate this unknown terrain. The trained counselors at OC Relationship center are here to help. Give us a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule your appointment via our online calendar today.