Tips for Bonding with Step-Children in Blended Families


Bonding with step-children is one of the most challenging aspects of creating harmony in blended families. Hollywood doesn’t make it any easier, either! With wicked step-mothers, murderous step-fathers and monstrous step-siblings in constant movie-streaming rotation, society has done a pretty good job of turning the word “step” into something creepy. Step-parents aren’t creepy, though. You know that, I know that. By the time you’re done bonding with your step-children, they’ll know that too!

Bonding with Step-Children in new Blended Families

I’m not technically a step-mom. I’ve been in a committed relationship with a man with two awesome kids for three years, but we haven’t taken the leap to moving in together yet. Still, I have spent a lot of time with his children over the past three years, so I feel qualified to share some tips for bonding with step-children. I was also a step-child myself at one point! Ready? Here we go:

  • Don’t force it. This is my number one piece of advice for bonding with step-children in blended families: Do not try to force a connection with your new step-children, no matter how much you want to. If you try too hard, you’ll end up with one of two scenarios: they’ll either take complete advantage of the fact that you want them to like you or they’ll think you’re a total fake and want to get as far away from you as possible.
  • Be genuine. You know how you act a bit different when you REALLY want someone to like you? Maybe you play up your cool factor or downplay your obsession with bullet-point lists. Don’t try that with your step kids. Children can spot a fake a million miles away. Don’t feign interest in your new step-son’s fascination with a particular sport. Don’t pretend to adore your new step-daughter’s My Little Pony collection. It’s better to wait until you find something you both enjoy than to pretend to enjoy something you don’t. Which brings us to the next tip…
  • Find common ground. Finding something in common is the first major step to bonding with step-children. It’s not that hard, either, even if you think you’re just too different. Start with the small things. A movie or book that you both love, a favorite sport- anything that lets you genuinely say “hey, me too!” While you can’t build an entire relationship around your mutual love for ancient history, it’s a good start!
  • Be like Switzerland when it comes to the outside parent. My boyfriend’s ex is…well, let’s just say it’s been a challenging three years. She’s said some truly horrible and totally untrue things about me to her children. It’s so tempted to bash her right back, but I don’t. Why? Because she’s their mother. Because they’re already in the middle of a nasty war and I don’t want to put them in the center of yet another one. Our situation is sadly common for divorced families. Your step-kids need a neutral party. Try your hardest to be Switzerland for them and your bond will strengthen on its own.
  • Put the time and effort into your bond. One you’ve forged your basic bond, you need to nurture it. Make one-on-one plans with your step-children as well as time for the whole family to spend together. Don’t assume that just because you’re getting along fine now, your work is done. Bonding with anyone is an ongoing process.

Honestly, bonding with step-children isn’t as hard as Hollywood makes it out to be. As with any new challenges in blended families, patience is the key. Be patient, be persistent (but not pushy) and just be there for them in general. The bond will come!

Do you have any tips for bonding with step-children in blended families? Share them in the comments!


28 thoughts on “Tips for Bonding with Step-Children in Blended Families”

  1. I have a few questions actually..

    I am dating someone with 3 kids. it has been over a year with her. And
    6 plus months really in the with kids. I know things dont happen over night.
    1.) How long is to long when nothing changes?
    2.) What happens when the kids do not recognize you at all?
    I. e. the kids were with their cousins today and went to see a movie. The kids come
    and say hi. their mom we outside to say hi to her brother. I asked the kids how was the movie? I got not response….. Then I ask what was the movie about? The oldest one answer, the younger two didn’t. I the responded did you have any favorite characters in the movie.
    The older didn’t respond, the middle child didnt respond
    but the youngest one did respond but. said “ why are you still here?, go home.

    There other things…. I feel I am not forcing myself on them… but its like I dont even have a fighting chance out the gate.

    What am I suppose to do?

    I already go to therapy to help myself understand better … i know its been a short time but just seems I may never be trusted in the future. I just wish my toe was even allowed in the door. I even cry at night thinking of this..

    please help

  2. Esther Hutchison

    Love it! The first three years were hard for us as well. However, we pushed through the tough years and now have our own blended family dynamic!

  3. The media and the movies really do make it harder for stepparents to connect with kids. I never thought of it that way. I have been in my stepson’s life since he was 7 years old. He’s 23 now, so yes, I’ve been in a committed relationship for 16 years (not married yet), and he IS my stepson, and I’m his stepmom. I must have made a good impression on him because he often tells me that he remembers the first time he ever met me. He imitates me leaping from around the corner of the hallway and saying ‘hi’ in an upbeat manner. Yup, that’s me. I was totally being myself, and I don’t even recall feeling nervous, which is unlike me actually. My stepson and I have an awesome relationship, and I’ve never had any conflict with him. Wow, that just hit me. Not one ever. We’ve all been through thick and thin moments, and it’s really strengthened our bond.

    Every situation is unique though.

    Also, I do think that if ‘he’ was a ‘she’ – I might have had a different story. I think daughters tend to put up walls more to protect their mother. I’m glad he is a boy because I actually relate better to guys than girls. I mean, I have been active in improving his game in baseball, football, and basketball – we’d all go out and hit baseballs, catch, and run bases. We used to have serious pick up b-ball games until he got so tall and strong that I’d get knocked over a lot. I would have been nervous if I had to give advice to a step-daughter about boys ,or worry about her dating and forming healthy relationships.

  4. These are really great tips on creating a perfect bonding with step children in a blended family. Being genuine is the foremost thing & I also agree than forcing wont help any relationship on earth. Thanks for the wonderful article.

  5. It’s definitely a feeling out process, on both sides, but worth every single effort. We have my s/o’s boys on the weekends and we try to do family stuff as much as possible.

    1. Rare or just stupid… Excuse me for joining the military, fighting in two wars and now trying to raise children. You act like you’re prefect but you’re just stupid.

  6. I Was never able to bond with my husbands kids from his first marriage. Their mother kept them away and we eventually moved. Now that they are older and adults they are starting to have more interaction with us so thanks for these tips.

  7. I have some friends who are blended in this way.. at first they all said it was difficult, but they eased their way in and now its like normal to all parties.

  8. I love your tip of not forcing the relationship by pretending to be interested in the child’s favourite things. It really wouldn’t be sustainable over the long term, and it’s great advice.

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