In our Blended Families series, we’ve taken a look at how blended families are a team sport, the unique challenges and opportunities blended families face, how children are affected by divorce and what it means for your new family, and how you can work together as a couple to make a real difference in your blended family. Now we take a look at the step-parent, step-children relationship and how you can, as the new parent figure in the family, create a lasting bond with your step-child.
Welcome to Step-Parenting
Welcome to the world of step-parenting. Step-parenting is a world that confounds many and leaves them feeling completely incompetent, at times. Fret not, you are NOT alone. Yes, step-parenting can be one of the most challenging aspects of your new family–you’re not sure what to do, what to say, how to begin–but its also the most potentially rewarding and beneficial journey you’ll embark on.
As you venture on the journey of step-parenting, remember this:
- You will feel uncomfortable and down-right useless some days. This is completely normal.
- You may experience resistance from your step-children, don’t take it personally.
- You will not see eye-to-eye with your spouse or his/her exes. That’s okay, don’t expect to.
- Step-parenting is not an overnight task, some experts estimate that it can take up to 7 years for a bond to form with step-children. Be patient.
Creating a Bond, Not Decisiveness
Creating a bond with your step-child (or children) is essential for the health of your new, blended family. And, while there is no magic formula for step-parenting, there are a few tips we can provide to help guide you on your way.
Remember, challenges are really opportunities. This may not feel like it while you’re in the center of it, but this kind of perspective is critical to your success in step-parenting. Children of divorce, as we’ve mentioned several times before, experience a wide range of emotional issues–as a natural occurrence. Remember this when you seem to be the “punching bag” of choice when they lash out.
ALL adults in the new family, both sides, need to work together. Period. We can not stress this enough. Your children and your step-children are longing for it–and they desperately need it. Do whatever you can to make sure this happens.
Plan ahead. Think through and plan for how you will communicate with your step-children, during good and bad times. Plan out special activities together, based on their willingness. Make plans to be successful, don’t leave the results to chance.
Understand the two household dilema your step-children are in. Remember, your step-children are now in two families with established relationships at their other parents house. Respect this and never give the implication you expect them to choose, or place them in an uncomfortable situation.
Never, ever let them hear you bad mouthing their parents, either of them. Always remember your step-children can be protective of their parents. Regardless of the “adult drama” happening, keep your thoughts and words positive. Even if you’re feeling differently, show your step-children you respect them and their parents. They will learn to respect you because of it.
Ensure everyone in your new family, step-children included, are seen and heard. When possible, include your step-children in family decisions, respecting their opinions and creating an environment of inclusiveness. When you and your spouse must make important family decisions, make sure you let their opinions are heard and respected.
Live day to day, with plenty of forgiveness. This should be your motto regarding everyone in your new family–especially your step-children. When children lash out, they say and do things they would not normally do. Much of it can be very hurtful. Let go of yesterday, live for today and learn to forgive, being mindful not to let a root of bitterness in your heart for them. This will help you keep a healthy perspective on your journey.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, step-parenting is all about understanding, respect and love. Understand the new dynamics of your family and how they affect your step-children. Respect their position and feelings with your actions and words. Love them, at every moment. You will often see a side of your step-children that would make any sane parent, insane.
Take everything in stride and travel the journey on a day to day.
Love freely and live purposefully!
Jesse & Melva
P.S. Stay tuned, our next step in the series takes a look at how to balance the needs of your marriage with your children and step-children. Challenging, yes, but necessary.