Blending a family can be a tricky situation. It’s a big adjustment for all involved. And, as the step-parent, you have a tough job ahead. Sometimes bonding happens easily and quickly. But, many times, it requires love and patience. Here are a few tips on how to build a stronger relationship with stepchildren.
Tips to Build a Stronger Relationship with Stepchildren
Begin with a stable marriage. Without the marriage, there is no family. It’s harder to take care of your relationship with each other in a blended family because you don’t have couple time like most first marriages do. You’ll have to grow and mature into the marriage while parenting. Also, seek out marriage conferences and fun marriage retreats. They will help you learn the communication skills necessary to lay a solid foundation for your blended family and to build a stronger relationship with stepchildren.
1. Begin establishing a friendship.
Establishing a friendship will take time. Be patient and take it slow to build a stronger relationship with stepchildren. Remember, they have been through a divorce and may worry about being disloyal to the other parent by liking you. Let them set the pace. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you would like. According to Dena Sposato, who directs a ministry for stepfamilies writes,
“It may take as many years as the child was old when the marriage occurred, for a ‘family feeling’ to develop between stepparent and stepchild. Children who were in the teen years when the marriage occurred may never bond to a point where the stepparent is a parent figure to them. They may develop only a good friendship.”
Read A Helpful Guide to Divorce and Children for more insight.
2. Respect the other parent.
You may not like the ex-spouse, but the child loves them. Never let the child see or hear that you dislike their mom or dad. Smile and listen without judgment when they talk about the other parent.
3. One-on-one time is essential.
Encourage and make room for the child(ren) to spend alone time with the biological parent. It doesn’t mean that you fade into the background, but it does show the kid(s) that you aren’t’ trying to push them out of the picture. In time, you may be able to enjoy some one-on-one time with the child(ren) as well. Give them the space to let you know when the time is right.
4. Leave the discipline to the biological parent.
As a couple, set up house rules and consequences together. However, the biological parent should be responsible for discussing them with the child(ren). Your spouse should establish consequences, and make it clear that they apply even when they aren’t home. That way, if you do have to discipline, it’s something they already know will happen. You will gain more authority as you build trust and respect.
5. Establish God as the authority in your lives.
Wise stepparents will communicate to their children that though “The mind of a man plans his way,” it’s ultimately the Lord who is in control. (Proverbs 16:9). They may not always be willing to listen, but children will take not as you model submission to God’s authority.
Eagle Family Ministries is committed to helping blended families. We have experienced Christian counselors to help you navigate this unique relationship. Get the marriage help you need to successfully blend your family.
Are there any tips you can share to build a stronger relationship with stepchildren? Share them with us in the comments below.