The process of getting to know your step-child is, in a word, daunting.
But, when it comes to the secret of establishing a bond with your step-child, the best advice that we can give you probably won’t actually be all that much of a surprise. Building up a relationship with a step child is essentially all about being consistent, and then having patience.
You and your step-child are two (to be frank) entirely unlinked individuals, who unexpectedly become a part of each other’s lives through the shared connection that you have with a loved one.
So this process means two things – one, that you shouldn’t feel like you have to deny the fact that you will start out as strangers (acknowledging that you are creating this relationship from the ground up) and two, that there is plenty of hope for a strong, happy bond to blossom between you both, thanks to the fact that you both have this mutual loved one at the core of your new association with each other.
With this exciting future ahead of you, as you nervously yet eagerly await the new familial network ahead of you both, in this post you’ll find some handy tips and advice to help you navigate the difficulties and promote the joys of connecting with your step-child.
It’s not worth your stress or worry and it won’t be a positive thing for your step-child either.
You can be a fantastic, caring figure in your step-child’s life without having to feel like you’re a direct replacement. So appreciate the value that you are bringing into their life specifically as a step-parent (rather than trying to play copy-cat by aiming to duplicate the role of their biological parent).
As the bond between you both develops, you will be an extra adult who cares, watches over them, supports them and helps your step-child to develop and blossom throughout the course of their life.
In order to help establish yourself as a step-parent in a healthy way, you could try reaching out to your partner’s ex. Reassure them that you are not trying to act as a replacement of them and, if you feel comfortable doing so, ask for their advice on how you can go about doing the best by their child. As with your step-child, understand their parent’s perspective, too. They may well feel jealous at first, but this will ease over time as you demonstrate your ability to recognise their vital role, and work together with them to develop a strong support network around their child. Also, make sure that your step-child and their biological parent continue to have plenty of quality time to themselves.
On a final note, you should never ever speak ill of their biological parent to your step-child. No matter how frustrating or unpleasant their behaviour. Even if your step-child comes to you in the need of a shoulder to cry on, don’t join them in venting, just be empathetic.
Your step-child doesn’t need constant parties, fan fairs and big days out. In reality, the best thing that you can do to help your child feel comfortable and welcome is treat them like a part of your family, in a normal day-to-day way. This involves family dinners, chilled out evenings, walks, chores and homework.
Also, don’t underestimate the effect of just having a normal, nice conversation with them. Start out with topics that they are interested in and chat to them about things that they enjoy talking about.
You’ll also soon find activities that you both have a common interest in, so go out and do them together – this is a great way to form organic, joyful connections. Equally, give them some space when they need it. Don’t keep trying to push them into returning your efforts if they’re not feeling in a good place, keep being there as a friendly, happy presence and let them come to you.
By starting out as friends in this way (rather than trying to launch into being loved as a parent from day one), you are leaving space for your relationship to develop naturally over time.
While it may be super easy to over-complicate and over-think, it’s not rocket science.
Building on from the point above, don’t underestimate the importance of just being a happy, friendly and kind presence in their lives. By working to establish and maintain a steady friendship, that gradually blossoms into a more loving parent and step-child connection, you will develop trust, honesty and a mutual sincere appreciation of each other, which are the cornerstones for a more sincere relationship between you both.
Let your step-child get to know you, and grow to love you for who you are. Be authentic, so that the relationship you form is one that is stable and real.
All of this isn’t going to come overnight, that’s a fact.
Be patient and don’t rush things. Also don’t be hard on yourself if things are taking their time to play out. Remember your step-child has gone through an awful lot lately, and your presence isn’t necessarily going to be easy for them to accept.
So, if your step-child has recently witnessed a divorce between their two biological parents, don’t rush the grieving process. Understand their perspective, give them time and space and allow them to feel (on occasion) hurt, frustrated and possibly even angered by your presence. After all, you represent the final shattering of their hopes that their parents will one day get back together.
In this case, the best thing that you can do is to start small with your efforts, and work your way up. Let your step-child come to you, and build the relationship effectively on their terms. Just make progress with this bonding process (in the form of baby steps), privately celebrate the little successes and remember not to take these things personally. Stay positive – things will get there and these bonds will form in time.
You can hardly be expecting a seamless transition to ‘picture-perfect postcard happy families’ for you and your step-child. It would be grossly unrealistic for me to make this prediction, and it would hardly come as a surprise if there were a few squabbles or disagreements with you both here and there.
But it’s important to remember that this is the case for all families – it is the way that you both work through them and use them as experiences to help you grow that determine how your relationship grows into the future. And don’t worry about the stigma that step-parents have historically been landed with, the wicked step-mother fairy tale trope may be a well-known one, but equally you don’t find many kids squeezing their feet into glass slippers.
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