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Stepchildren: 6 Guidelines for Building a Relationship

Falling in love with someone who has children can present challenges. You might be excited to move into life with your new partner, but his or her children may not be so thrilled becoming your stepchildren. How can you create a loving, blended family?

Here are several things to remember as you forge a bond with your stepchildren:

  1. Recognize that it’s a big change for the children. A new stepparent is a reminder to them that their old family is gone and that “normal” will never return. The anger, disappointment, and sadness a child feels following divorce may make it difficult for him or her to connect with you. Time and patience are necessary.

    Photo by Thomas Hawk. [1]

    Photo by Thomas Hawk.

  2. Remember you are the adult. You have perspective and you have impulse control. It is your responsibility to start the work of building a relationship with the children. But that doesn’t mean you must do it on your own. Your spouse, friends, and family can help you figure it out.
  3. Put rules into place immediately. While your bond with your stepchild may be weak or non-existent, you cannot let that be an excuse for bad behavior. You and your spouse should implement consistent rules for chores, respectful language, etc. so that everyone knows the expectations.
  4. Find an activity [2] to connect you, preferably something that promotes interaction. Make sure it’s something you both enjoy, so it’s not forced. And it doesn’t have to be something that costs money. Hiking, crafts, sports, and reading are all good activities.
  5. Communication is key. Your spouse must support your developing relationship with his/her children, but he or she can’t be taking sides or choosing one or the other. Listen to his/her suggestions for improving the relationship and communicate with him/her about all parenting.
  6. Consider counseling [3]. Your stepchild might need to see a family therapist to work out his or her own feelings on the divorce and remarriage of his/her parent. But you might also need help as you work to figured out the dynamics of a blended family. The stress of failing to connect with a stepchild can feel painful and even affect your relationship with your spouse.

Come talk out your divorce problems with our therapist during our next Second Saturday divorce workshop [4].