by Stephanie Partridge
More and more families are becoming blended families which means that parents are remarrying and children and gaining new step parents. This can also mean some rocky roads ahead. Blended families rarely mesh together easily and seamlessly, there is usually a great deal of adjustment and often a lot of conflict. Step children may be resentful to the new parent, feeling that the step parent wants to take the biological parent's place. Children can become surly, depressed and combative. They may act out at home or at school causing their parents a great deal of stress and worry. This is normal, but that knowledge does not make the transition any easier. These tips, however, might.
Don't expect to bond overnight.
I can take a blended family years to bond. Don't rush it and don't push the child to accept you. If you are having trouble with your step child not accepting you, take a step back and allow them to guide the relationship. Once they see that you will be there no matter what, they will be much more likely to accept you and warm up to you. The key, though, is that you don't try to rush the relationship. Allow it to grow, nurture it and take it easy.
Understand the difference between the blended family and the first family.
The first family has either ended due to a divorce or death which is traumatic to a child. If your step child is having trouble accepting you, they may have some issues with how they are handling the dissolution of the first family. Understand that there are many differences and be sensitive to what the child may be feeling.
Don't try to take the place of a parent.
This is a mistake that many step parents and well meaning biological parents make. They try to force the children to view the step parent as the "new dad" or "new mom." In other words, they try to put the step parent in the place of the biological parent. This can cause a great deal of resentment because your child will fill that you are edging their other parent out and you are stepping in. Don't go into the relationship full force as a parent. Be a friend, be a confidant, be someone they can trust. The rest will follow.
Discipline as the adult in charge, not at the parent.
A step child who is acting out and giving you a hard time will give you a harder time if you try to discipline them as if you were their parent. Take a step back at first and be the adult in charge. Step parenting is a position that you have to ease into much of the time. You may no be viewed as a parent for two, three, four or even six years. It takes a great deal of time, effort and patience, but don't rush it by trying to be the parent right off the bat.
Address the "you're not my mom/dad" argument early.
One of the most common arguments that a step parent will face is the "you're not my mom" or "you're not my dad" argument. Don't let this throw you. Be confident about who you are and what role you have in the child's life. Make sure that you express it clearly, but sensitively. You may want to acknowledge that no, you are not their parent. You can tell the child that they have a mother and father and that you have no intention of replacing them. Discipline not as the parent, but as the adult in charge.
Present a united front with your spouse.
Children can be masters at manipulation and if they see that they can manipulate you or your spouse they will. When the two of you do not agree on discipline or parenting, this can cause cracks in your armor. This weakness will be picked up by the children and they can attack, pitting one parent against the other. This will cause a great disruption in your family. Even if you and your spouse do not agree on discipline, do not allow your children to see that. Stick together and back each other.
Keep your marriage in focus.
If you have married into a ready made family, you are building a relationship with your spouse as well as with your step children. Keep your marriage as the focus and stand together. Back each other and take time out for just the two of you, even if it is just a walk around the block. Step families can be challenging, but they can also be very rewarding. It is well worth the time, patience and energy that you spend on it.
Use the three L's
The three L's can help foster any relationship, but they can most certainly turn around a step child who does not accept you.
Learn what they like and don't like, what their dreams are, who they admire and why. In short, get to know the child as a person.
Listen to them when they talk. Really listen, don't just hear. Don't try to fix all of their problems or tell them what to do. Ask questions to find out what they are thinking and ask for their opinion.
Love them, just love them.
Stephanie Partridge: I am a mom, not just to my three terrific teenagers, but to the entire neighborhood! On any given weekend we may have as many as 9 or more kids (not including my three) staying over at our house – and they all call me Mom. LOL
I believe that parenting is more than just raising kids, it is about raising adults who are productive critical thinkers. I believe in asking questions about Life’s hard questions and finding the answers together. The world is a much different place than when I was growing up. It is harder, rougher and presents many more challenges for young people and it is up to us to help these kids find their way without giving them all the answers – let them discover them on their own. When I was pregnant with my first child I was standing in line at the post office. The man in front of me suddenly turned and asked me, "How can you in good conscience bring a child into this messed up world." I looked at him and answered, "If we don’t bring children into this messed up world, then who is going to straighten the mess out?"
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