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!
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.