Bonding with step-children can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding. With some patience, willingness to communicate, and realistic expectations, you can build a lasting, meaningful relationship with your step-children. Here is a step-by-step guide to bonding with step-children.
1. Take It Slow
The first step is not to get in a hurry. Relax, take your time, and recognize that it’s going to take some time to build a decent relationship with your step-children. Statistics show that blended families tend to be more successful if at least two years pass between the divorce and the remarriage. In other words, waiting a while before jumping right into the Brady Bunch is a good idea.
2. Be a Friend
When you begin to “ease” into your step-children’s life (or lives), sources say it’s best to just be a friend – a casual friend. Trying to play the part of step-dad or step-mom right off the bat can be overwhelming for kids who are already trying to process big family changes. So think of yourself more as a casual friend who comes over and hangs out.
3. Neutral Territory
When you start to get into the friend zone, you may have more success if your first interactions with your step-children take place in neutral territory. Showing up at their house for dinner may be a bit too much in the beginning. Instead, take a walk together or attend an event with them. Maybe meet up at a park or somewhere that isn’t your step-kids’ territory. That can sometimes help prevent resentment and other negative feelings.
4. Real Life Situations
As you get to know the step-children better as a friend in neutral territory, you may decide it’s time to start participating in “real life” events and situations. Maybe you can help with errands and chores, or come along to your step-child’s martial arts lesson or church event. Maybe you can tag along with the biological parent just to pick up and drop off the step-kids.
5. Once You’re Remarried…
Once you’ve become a part of your step-children’s lives as their live-in step-parent, there are other ways to bond with your step-children. You can help with homework, do a project together (school-related or otherwise), or participate in something the child really enjoys. If he likes building airplanes, get an airplane kit to work on together. If your step-daughter likes horses, see if you can arrange horseback riding lessons with her. Pay attention to your step-children’s interests, and try to find some common ground.