Jun 172009
 

Creating good relationships and connecting with your stepchildren can be tough, but there are ways to solve step parenting problems! These tips for connecting with stepchildren are based on insights from a psychologist and a parenting specialist.

Before the tips, a quip:

“Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths,” said Mark Twain. “No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.”

The same goes for connecting wtih stepchildren: you have to give your new partner, kids, and yourself time to form the bonds that create good family relationships.

For more info on remarriage and step parenting, read 7 Steps to Bonding with Your Stepchild by Suzen Ziegahn, PhD.

And, here are five tips for successful second marriages and step parents….

Solving Problems With Your Stepchildren – 5 Ways to Bond

1. Learn something new as a family. Psychology professor Leaf Van Boven from the University of Colorado says that happiness – and strong relationships – is found in your experiences (not your possessions). Experiences are open to positive reinterpretations and become a meaningful part of your identity. Learning new things as a family — such as how to make sushi, play Wii Brain Game, or geocache for treasure — puts everyone on equal ground. When you want to connect with your stepchildren, try to build your own memories with them.

2. Be deliberate about spending time together. Make it a habit to go hiking, practice yoga, or play Frisbee regularly — but don’t set it in stone. Armin Brott, author of Father for Life, says, “Family habits may be hard to establish, especially if you have teens. However, you don’t have to spend a huge amount of time planning them. Simple activities are often the best. Conversations and connection will come naturally out of a low-stress, low-pressure situation.” For more parenting tips, check out Brott’s MrDad.com website.

3. Figure out what makes you feel disconnected from your stepchildren. If you feel awkward with your step children, try to pinpoint the exact reasons. Then, find specific ways to overcome those barriers. For instance, if you’re excluded from discussions, ask your partner (privately) to make an effort to include you. The more deliberate you are about connecting with your step children, the more successful you’ll be. And, don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings of disconnection. You’ll be more likely to make your second marriage successful if you openly discuss the challenges and obstacles – with your stepchildren!

4. Spend one-on-one time with your stepchildren. Brott schedules regular dates with each of his kids. This reassures them that he’s there for each of them, and it helps him keep in touch with their interests and lives. He says, “Once kids are in school and spending time with friends, parents are often surprised by how little they know about their kids’ activities, tastes, interests, friends, political views, etc.” Connecting with your step children away from your new partner may help you solve your step parenting problems. Do something different with them — explore good things to do when you’re bored for ideas.

5. Connect with your stepchildren on their terms. Brott also says that it’s better to connect with teens on their terms rather than force them to participate in activities they don’t want to do. Teens are in their own world, and forcing them out of it — especially as a step parent — can backfire. Tell them that spending some time together is NOT an option…but they can choose the activity (within reason!).

Also — focus on building a solid marriage with your new husband or wife. The more connected you are, the higher the chances you’ll connect with your partner’s children.

If you have any thoughts about bonding with your stepchildren, please comment below!

laurie pawlik kienlenI'm Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen - bookworm, travel bug, flute player, writer, blogger, warrior princess. :-) My husband and I live in Vancouver, Canada with our cat and dogs.

Are you happy? My Grade 10 Social Studies teacher always asked me that. And I am happy, despite a hard childhood (schizophrenic mom, no dad, foster homes), infertility, an eating disorder, and a chronic illness. The source of my peace and joy is God; I'm a Christian. Where do you find peace?

I welcome your big and little comments below, about big or little things. I can't give you advice, but writing can give you clarity and insight.

In peace and passion...Laurie

  3 Responses to “Solving Problems With Your Stepchildren – 5 Ways to Bond”

  1. Solving problems with your stepchildren involves being patient, and perhaps getting professional help. Some kids will never accept their step parents, no matter what.

  2. Hi Larry,

    Congratulations on your marriage — I hope you and your wife have a long, happy life together!

    It’s great that your wife wants to spend time with your son; she wants to get to know him and build a relationship with him. Women are all about bonding and relationships — and many men (especially teenage boys!) don’t have the same perspective.

    I suggest taking your son out for something he likes to do, just you and him. Go hiking, biking, or to whatever restaurant he likes. Even if you don’t talk a lot about this major life change he’s experiencing or his relationship with his new stepmom, it’s important to spend time as father and son — without your new family.

    After you’ve been together for a couple of hours, then think about tackling the big issues — sometimes it’s not a good idea to jump into a heavy discussion right away! Find out where he’s at with this move. Just listen; give him time to talk.

    How you broach the “stepson-stepmom” bonding issue depends on how he’s feeling and adjusting to the move. You might try describing how he’ll benefit from getting to know your wife better. I don’t know if he’ll be swayed by a “this is why she wants to bond with you” discussion — most of us are coming from a “what’s in it for me” position! So if you can help him see the benefits of getting to know her better, he might be more inclined to come out of his shell.

    Also — another reason it’s acceptble for the daughter to spend time in her room is because your wife already knows her daughter! Once your wife gets to know your son, he’ll have more freedom to spend time in his room. Your wife just wants to live with someone she knows and understands a little.

    I also suggest asking your wife to be patient. Five weeks isn’t that long; I just moved into my new house five weeks ago, and I still feel weird and out of place — and I’m with the same old husband I’ve always had! Some people take longer to adjust to new environments, and she needs to respect that. ESPECIALLY a teenage boy who’s probably worried about starting a new school soon.

    The bottom line may be asking them both to compromise. Maybe ask your son for the least amount of time he’ll spend out in the family common area (one hour a week?), and ask your wife for the amount of time she wants to see him out there (one hour a day?). Then, split the difference (three hours a week?). Maybe this more practical approach will work.

    I hope these suggestions help! If nothing else works, you might try a session or two with a family counselor — or at least drop a friendly threat of family counseling to your son. Maybe that’ll motivate him :-)

    Good luck!

    Laurie

  3. About five weeks ago I remarried (my first wife died in 2004). I have a 14 year old son and my wife has a 18 year old daughter ,who lives with us, and 21 year old son, away at college. My son has been spending almost all his free time in his room and it is becoming an issue with my wife. She does not feel she can build a relationship with him while he is always in his room. I understand her point and agree with it ,but at the same time I understand what he is going through. He moved away from all his friends, (we moved into my wife’s house) and he is not as extroverted as her children. His comeback is that her daughter also spends a lot of time in her room, on her computer, which is true, but she is going away to college in 2 weeks so that won’t be an issue anymore. I don’t want to “change” my son, but at the same time I want my wife to be able to build a relationship with him. Any suggestions?