5 Secrets For Maintaining A Close Bond With Your Stepchildren
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By Terry Gaspard, Featured Journalist - September 05, 2016

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There are many ways you can develop a positive relationship with your stepchildren if you invite them to participate in activities that interest them and expose them to some of your hobbies. For instance, inviting your stepchildren to share your love of fishing while on a summer vacation can help you form a friendship.

The role of a stepparent is complicated, yet it’s possible to develop a close bond with your stepchildren if you learn the secrets of successful stepparents. Most importantly, remember that the relationship between your spouse and their children existed before you arrived and your relationships with your stepchildren are fragile and need to be nourished with positive interactions over time.

It is essential that you keep in mind that a close bond between a stepparent and a stepchild doesn’t develop overnight. So catch your stepkids doing something positive and comment on it. They’ll appreciate that you noticed their good deeds and accomplishments – even if they don’t show it at the time.

Additionally, presenting a united front with your spouse is very helpful to the formation of a healthy stepfamily. This action requires respect, caring and lots of love because it may not be easy to do if you do not agree with your spouse. Caring and respect are especially important, cannot be rushed, and are “earned” or granted over time among all family members.

Always do your best to support your partner’s decisions about his or her biological children. This will help build trust between you and your stepchildren. Remember you are a “competitor” for their parents’ attention, especially when a remarriage takes place within a few years after the breakup of your stepchild’s family.

Different from a biological parent, a major thrust of being a stepparent is to be a friend to your stepchildren on some level. Not like a school friend, but an adult friend more akin to being a mentor who is also a parental figure.

There are many ways you can develop a positive relationship with your stepchildren if you invite them to participate in activities that interest them and expose them to some of your hobbies. For instance, inviting your stepchildren to share your love of fishing while on a summer vacation can help you form a friendship.

However, it may be more challenging to form a bond with a stepchild of the opposite gender, especially if your personalities clash and you do not share interests. There is no such thing as instant love between a new stepparent and a stepchild. One of the most crucial things to learn about a stepfamily is that most children give love and trust to their parent, but feel that their stepparent must earn their love and trust over time.

Attending some of your stepchildren’s school events, showing interest in their hobbies, and supporting their need for one-on-one time with your spouse can promote a caring relationship. This takes time, years really.

5 Secrets for Maintaining a Close Bond With Your Stepchild:

1. Respect your spouse’s relationship with your stepkids and don’t feel threatened by their close connection. He or she will want to spend special time with their children so try not to feel neglected by him/her. Make plans with your friends and graciously step out of their way.

2. Proceed slowly and have realistic expectations: Just because things went well when you were dating his or her biological parent, doesn’t ensure things will go smoothly once you’re married.  Tying the knot effectively ends any hope of their mother and father reunifying and can reignite feelings of loss for your stepchildren. Remember that your stepkids will be there for the duration whether a positive relationship unfolds with you, so step to the higher ground and be the adult role model they deserve. Go slowly and work on earning his or her trust.

3. Develop a relationship with your stepchildren through hobbies and interests. Sharing interests from sports to chess can help you develop a bond. Be persistent if he or she fails to invite you to an event or activity. Keep in mind, you’re the adult and need to be the mature one. Say something like: “I’d love to go to your concert, how do I get tickets?”

4. Understand your stepchild’s view. First, it’s a given that your stepchildren had a relationship with your spouse that existed before you came on the scene so they’ll sometimes give you the cold shoulder and prefer you weren’t in the picture. Realize that love between a stepparent and stepchild often comes later. Even if you don’t hit it off with him or her, you can still develop a working relationship built on respect. If your stepchild does not warm up to you right away that does not mean you’ve failed. Once again, adopting realistic expectations can help you get through some rough spots. 

5. Cooperate with the biological parent living with you, and talk talk talk. Most of the talking will take place away from your stepkids but be sure to have cordial conversations and informal discussions about family rules, roles, chores, and routines with the kids.

Holding family meetings on a weekly basis gives you an opportunity to listen to your stepchildren’s point of view. Be sure to listen actively to his or her input so they’ll feel validated. Ultimately you and your spouse are the adults who have the last word on household decisions but showing your stepkids you respect their input will help cement a good relationship in the years to come.

Should stepparents discipline their stepchildren? This is a controversial question that needs to be negotiated by parents. However, most experts advise that stepparents should avoid the role of disciplinarian. For the most part, your role as a stepparent includes helping your stepchildren abide by family rules. In any case, thread lightly on being a disciplinarian – especially if you’re a new stepparent and have not earned your stepchildren’s respect yet.

Keep in mind, if you feel like you are walking on eggshells, you are not alone – most stepparents feel tenuous at times in their role. Allow this feeling to propel you on to building bridges that connect you with your stepchildren and work on creating special memories you can look back on fondly in the years to come.

Casey, an experienced stepmom of four years put it this way: “At times I felt like a stranger around my stepdaughter when we were first married and I didn’t know exactly how to relate to her. But over time, by showing interest and attending her dance recitals, things got better and I no longer feel like an outsider.”

Let’s end on the wise words of author Suzen J. Ziegahn, Ph.D. “The benefit of strengthening the bond with your stepchild is tremendous for you, your partner, and your stepchild. It truly is the beginning of life for you as a stepfamily.”

Follow Terry Gaspard on Twitter, Facebook, and movingpastdivorce.com. Terry is pleased to announce the publication of Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-lasting Relationship (Sourcebooks).

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