If you want to have a good relationship with your step-children and have a pleasant family life, it’s important to be careful about what you say and how you interact with them, especially at the beginning of the relationship. The following are some tips specifically geared toward step-parents which, if followed, will make your life a lot easier.
1. Share Your Hobbies & Interests
Children of divorced parents instinctively want to hate their step-parents; they have preconceived ideas about step-parents. Part of hating a step-parent involves “defending” the missing parent. When you marry into a situation where you become a step-parent, be yourself. Share your hobbies and interests but don’t try to force anything.
2. Avoid Trying to Replace a Parent or Force Your Authority
While it is okay to assume a position of authority as you are an adult be conscious of your role as a step-parent. One of the most common step-parent mistakes is assuming a role as ‘another parent’. When you position yourself as in this role, children feel as if they have 2 choices: they can choose between being nice to you and being disloyal to their parent, or being mean to you and being loyal to their parent. So, if you force your authority or try to “replace” a parent, you are guaranteed to have problems with your step-children. Enforce existing rules, be mindful that your step-children are acting in a manner that is safe and appropriate and be respectful of them but do not try and replace their parent.
3. Limit Changes
While it is important to establish routines, and to mesh with your new spouse and his or her children into a family, it is equally important to limit the changes to their lives. If you come in and change everything, from the furniture set up to the activities they do on a Saturday morning, they are going to get angry and negative feelings will grow and fester. Remember that your entrance into child’s life when they have been through the pain of divorce is a big deal and, often, it is all the change a child can handle at one time. So, if you and your spouse determine that changes are necessary, make them slowly. Don’t try and put your stamp on everything. Children need the security of sameness.
4. Care About Your Step-children
Kids are not stupid. In fact, if you dislike them, are jealous of them or are disinterested in them and their well being they will be able to sense it quickly. It’s important to develop a relationship with your step-children by actually caring about them and taking an active interest in their lives. Start by having conversations with them; learn about them by asking them about their day when they get home from school, or about their friends. Find out what music they like, what they want to be when they grow up, what their favorite or least favorite subject to study and their general interests. If they are involved in sports leagues, the theatre or other school sponsored events, attend their games, recitals and events. Seeing you in the audience or on the sidelines cheering shows them that you genuinely care and that goes further than words.
5. Give it Time
It takes time for people to adjust to new places, things and situations so give this new situation time. Don’t get discouraged if they hate you at first. Remember that they don’t actually hate you; however, the dynamics surrounding blended, or step-, families are often very complex. Bear in mind that anger, confusion and hatred are normal emotions in this situation. Given time and space, kids usually get past these emotions and are able to move forward to a happier, calmer place.