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!