Falling in love with the right person is a blessing, and can be an even bigger blessing if that person has children. Stepparents often get a bad rap, but there are many wonderful stepparent/stepchild relationships
all around you. Cinderella had an evil stepmother, but that doesn’t have to be a reality for your family situation if you take the time to learn the proper way to bond with your new stepchildren.
How you approach the situation will have a lot to do with your own personality and the personalities of the children involved. Probably the best approach is to never give up on fostering a good bond. It is possible, no matter how hard it may seem at first.
Time and Patience
No matter what the situation may be, don’t situate yourself as a replacement for the missing parent, even if that parent is no longer alive. If you try to become ‘mom’ or ‘dad’, you are setting yourself up for failure. The children have to get to know you as a person before they can feel any sort of emotional bond with you. Trying to step into the ‘parent’ shoes too soon can spell disaster.
No matter how good or bad it may seem to be going, remember to not rush the children, and don’t push them towards something they seem resistant too. Gentle reminders work best when children seem resistant to the new life and mourn for the old. Remember that your new relationship must have time to grow.
Before you even marry, you and your spouse should have a plan of action. You should know your new spouses disciplinary values and you should abide by them. The children should know that even though you are not their natural parent, they are still expected to follow the rules as they have always been, and that you will have to discipline them if they do not. Perhaps at first, it’s better to keep things exactly the same without introducing any new rules.
Just as you would want your new stepchildren to show you respect, you should do the same for them. No matter what you think of the absent mother or father, you should never be caught badmouthing them in anyway. Treat everyone with dignity.
Put your needs behind those of the children. Remember that you are better prepared to deal with conflict and changing emotions, while they are just learning to adapt to the world.
One huge mistake some stepparents make without realizing it, is treating their own children better than they treat their new stepchildren. This will do nothing but ruin the relationship and make home life harder than it has to be. Each child deserves the same love and respect as the other. This is hard to accomplish at first, because love must grow, but it’s important to really think about each decision you make and how you treat each person.
A child who is treated differently than their stepsiblings can carry resentment with them for the rest of their lives. You may not be the biological parents of your new spouse’s children, but you must understand you will still have a huge impact on their lives and their outlook on the world. The same will go for the children’s new step-grandparents.
When a new couple has a baby, the existing children need to be incorporated into the process as much as possible. Use the terms ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ when referring to the new baby so everyone feels like they are on an even keel.
The last thing a stepparent needs is to be seen as the bad guy. It’s hard for anyone to forge a relationship when it’s strictly a parental one. You need to make time for fun stuff as well. This will help the children see you as a real person, not just as someone who moved into their lives and changed everything. Come up with new rituals that they can be involved with and keep them up.
If things just aren’t working out as you thought they would, don’t be opposed to family therapy. Some stepfamilies bond rather easily and quickly, while others go down a long and bumpy road. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know what to do. There really are no hard and fast rules, and the stepparent/stepchild relationship is often quite challenging. The most important thing is to keep an open heart and to never give up.