How To Bond With Your Stepchildren
It is a beautiful thing when two people commit to one another through marriage; and for some, they don’t just take on the new title husband or wife but also step-mom or step-dad. What a joy it can be to become a stepparent, although it usually isn’t without its challenges. As the child(ren)’s perspective may be much different and may need lots of time to warm up to the idea. A stepparent can feel threatening to a child, as though they are trying to take the place of their mom or dad. These types of changes for a child can be rough as they feel like they have no control. Therefore it is important to understand that it will take time to build a relationship, and in the midst of heated or stressed moments patience is key. Losing a parent or going through a divorce can be very painful for a child, and even though that pain may be difficult for them to navigate, don’t lose heart. Instead, be intentional and be willing to take things slow and on their timing. Being a stepparent is a delicate and difficult role to play but it can be so rewarding. Here are some ways you can bond with your stepchild to help build and strengthen your relationship.
Begin with a friendship…
Simply be available for your stepchild and let the birth parents do the parenting. Be a consistent and kind presence that they can count on. Always keep the line of communication open by letting them know you are available if they ever want to talk or if they have any questions. Don’t hide behind your spouse; instead, be your authentic and genuine self. Be curious about your stepchild(ren) and get to know them and their interests while allowing them to get to know you. As you take cues from the child, take your time in building a firm foundation based on friendship and trust. There may be a season of rejection as the child works through grief and a rollercoaster of emotions but remain steady and resilient. In due time a meaningful and genuine relationship will begin to take root and flourish.
Support what they enjoy
Take interest in what your stepchild enjoys and ask them questions about it. Engage in conversation about the activities and hobbies they like doing. Learn about them by asking what they like most about that activity or hobby. Build a connection by relating with them. If what they are interested in interests you then share what you like about that activity. Work at finding common ground and if their interest is different than yours, ask them to teach you. For example, be willing to learn a new video game and play with them. If they love sports go outside and practice with them or be a part of their sporting events. Show up for any school performances they may have. If they need help in studying for a big test, be available and willing to help, but don’t be too pushy. Value your stepchild by showing them you care about what they care about. Be diligent at finding out more about them, and then seek to understand.
Do an adventure together…
As you build a connection and you have some level of trust a solo outing together could deepen that bonding process. What does the child like? Would they enjoy going to a professional sports game? A concert? Do they like ice cream? Is there a movie they’d love to see in theaters, maybe include a dinner as well? As you enjoy an outing together make it about connecting deeper. Give them a chance to ask you anything, even play 20 questions. Having fun together builds and strengthens trust.
Make new traditions…
Traditions are great ways to unify a family and to have something to look forward to. This could include going camping at a certain spot each year or going to the beach, baking cookies together during the holidays, or picking apples in the fall and making a pie. Maybe every year you go to a certain theme park or play laser tag. It could even be something simple like doing a certain craft each year. Whatever tradition your family chooses to do make it one that will unite and bond the family while making lasting memories.
Respect alone time with the biological parent…
The child may begin to feel like anytime they want to be with their mom or dad you are always there, making them feel that any one-on-one time with their parent no longer exists. This could lead to resentment and bitterness, so alleviate those emotions by allowing your spouse and their child space to be alone together. Respecting the relationship between your spouse and their child will help soften the child’s heart towards you. However the opposite is true as well, the relationship between you and your spouse must remain strong as well. Give alone time but don’t allow the child to come between the two of you.
It is no easy feat to take on the stepparent role, so give yourself grace. Learn to laugh, and find humor in whatever life throws at you. Your relationship with your stepchild won’t be perfect. You’ll make mistakes, but as long as you’re moving in the right direction and being intentional, the relationship will begin to adjust in a positive way. Don’t give up! It’ll be worth it!
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