Learning how to connect with your step kids is one of the most important aspects of blending families.
When I was a teacher, I had many children from blended families in my classroom. I was sure of one thing: it was hard for them at the beginning. They just had their world turned upside down. They didn’t choose it, but they had to go along with it.
Kids feel like they have zero control, as their life is being rearranged for them. It’s up to the adults to let the kids know that you, the new stepparent, will be there for them when they are ready.
In the meantime, try a few of these tips.
Show Your Step Kids How Invested You Are In Them
When you marry someone with children, it’s a package deal. While marriage is a separate bond from raising children, the children deserve to feel secure and loved in their new family unit.
Include your step kids as an important part of the family, as much as you can. They will notice if you exclude them or act odd around them. For example, one of my friends asked her new stepdaughter-to-be if she would like to pick the bridesmaids and flower girl dresses, color, style, and all!
Find out what they are interested in, and show interest!. Take them to their favorite restaurant, talk about their favorite team, attend their sports events, and any other extracurriculars, etc. This is one of the best parts of being a stepparent!
Involve them in the routines of the household. Give them chores and regular tasks, as usual.
Have regular traditions together such as: pizza night, movie night, or game night. Ask for your step kid’s input, and let them help you choose! Giving kids “guided control” in situations like this empowers them, and helps them find their place in their new family unit.
Be Patient and Loving Toward Your Step Kids
Remember, it takes time to organically form relationships. Be available but don’t overly push yourself on them. Kids can see through “fake and forced”, even it it’s well-intentioned.
Give your step kid alone time with their dad/mom. This is so important! Remember, they were there before you were. They will see you as less of a threat when they see you value their relationship with their parents. Eventually, it might even turn into them wanting to also have special time, with just you!
Always speak kindly about both parents, but be extra careful with the words you choose when talking about your spouse’s ex. Regardless of how they treat you, your spouse’s ex is an enormous part of your step kid’s world. If that person is nasty to you, turn the other cheek and be the bigger person, for your step kid’s sake. You always want them to know that you support both of their families.
If you are mixing families, make sure you treat everyone fairly. Hold family meetings to assess this and check in on everyone’s feelings.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Ask your spouse for tips. They know their kids, and may know if the child needs more space, or if you will have to push things some.
There is no shame in seeking advice from a counselor, as well. Creating a new family unit can be stressful, and although immensely rewarding, being a stepparent has its own challenges, aside from step-parenting, itself. It can be really helpful to have an unbiased person to vent to and seek advice from, especially if the relationship with your spouse’s ex is strained. The kids come first, but you also need to nurture your marriage and your own mental health.
Gain support from other healthy friends who are stepparents. It’s always encouraging to have someone a little further down the road to encourage you.
If you take one thing from these tips, use this as your compass while you navigate these uncharted waters and make decisions for your new family: Is this in the best interest of the child? That one little sentence will usually guide you in the right direction.
Comment below with any advice you have!