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The Step-parent Struggle
So you’re a step-parent too? I know how hard it can be at first to form a connection and maneuver your way around this relationship. You feel out of place and unsure of how to build a bond with your step-children, but I will show you some tips to help the bonding begin.
When my Husband and I met, I was a single Mom of two children and he was separated from his ex. She was living out of state with their four daughters. With his children living in Alabama and us being in New Jersey, I didn’t put much thought into the fact that one day these girls may become my step-children. Oh, how stupid I was.
What I am about to tell you is going to sound crazy I know, but it’s our story. Five months into dating my Husband, he received a phone call no parent wants to receive. The children were being removed from the home and placed into foster care. His ex-wife had developed a habit of drinking and the situation became out of control and dangerous to the children. My Husband was unaware of what was happening since he was living so far away and the kids didn’t tell him during the few times she actually let him speak to them. Long story short he was moving to Alabama and I had two options: 1. Stay in New Jersey while he leaves and we try to make our relationship work or 2. Move with him. I chose to move with him. Overnight, I went from being a single mom to 2 kids to a mom of six kids. I had never met his children and only briefly spoke with them prior to our move. I was scared, but living through something similar when I was younger, I felt I needed to go because I could maybe help them.
It Starts With You
Building a bond with them took some time. Given the circumstances, we had many hurdles to overcome. Four beautiful girls, who had been dealt so much pain. Each working through it in their own individual way. We managed and we came out on top. Now, we have an amazing relationship. They are my children, day in and day out, I take care of them. I am there for them and most of all I show them, unconditional love.
Our relationship took work to get to where it is today. As children, they may not understand how to connect with you or that they even can. I believe that is a job we need to initiate. In no way will it be easy, but the reward of their love will be worth more than anything in this whole world.
Building The Bond
First thing is first, you need to let go of your fears. I am a firm believer in whatever is going to happen will happen. Fearing you will never bond with them or that they will never accept you is putting you on the fast track to being correct. You have to go into this being open-minded and willing to accept whatever comes along.
Respect The Other Parent
Always respect the biological parent. Children have a hard time seeing fault in the people they love. If you are disrespecting their Mom/Dad that is going to hurt them and confuse them. The same can be applied to the biological parent. Sure, it is hard to see your child have a connection with someone who is not you, but be thankful someone else is there to love your child too. As much as I disliked what my Husband’s ex-wife did and how bad she hurt the kids I was always kind to her when I took the children for their supervised visits. Yes, it was hard, but it would have been harder to see the kids hurt because I was being childish and selfish with my own feelings. So pull your big kid panties up and deal with your issues.
Do Things Together As A Family
Do an activity together as a whole family. It will strengthen the bond between all of you and also give you the opportunity to learn more about how the relationship between the parent and the child works. One year for Christmas we were given a game called Family Dinner as a gift. We love this game because it sparks great conversations during meals. It has really helped us to learn more about one another and we still play frequently. You can buy the game here.
One On One
Spend time with the child/children one on one. Find some kind of activity to do together, such as dinner or the park. Whatever you pick doesn’t matter, what matters is taking the time to build a bond with them. Give them an opportunity to trust you and become comfortable around you. Taking time to get to know them is going to help you to learn what their interests are. Use this to build your relationship. If you both enjoy the same thing, you can use that as your one on one time. If not, then maybe learn to like or pretend to like something they do. Let them teach you all about it or even maybe you teach them something you like. Whichever, just do it together.
Another tip I had to learn very quickly, was, not to be afraid to talk to my Husband about what I wanted and what he expected from me. We discussed everything from allergies, to my role in discipline, to stories about their childhood. Even now, 4 years later, we still have these discussions and it has really helped me find my way within my relationship with both my Husband and the kids.
It’s OK To Say No
Do yourself a favor and do not be the yes parent. If your spouse and you have discussed your role in discipline, then use what was discussed when it comes to actually parenting them. If you do not set clear guidelines for expectations and boundaries, it can leave you frustrated and open to them taking advantage of you. Trust me, it is not something you want.
Love With Everything You Have
The most important piece of advice I can give you and this goes for biological kids and step kids, let them know they are loved. Being loved is one of the greatest feelings in the world. It may not be easy at first and maybe the child will fight it, but just keep loving them. They will come around eventually.
If you have any tips you would like to share please do so below in the comments.