10 Tips On Beginning Your Relationship With Your Future Stepchild
“During my first year as a stepparent, I went into it thinking I knew everything…”
By: Millennial Stepmom (Tip #10 by my husband)
Becoming a stepparent is not always easy, if you follow me on instagram, you have heard me state time and time again, the beginning is always the hardest! During my first year as a stepparent, I went into it thinking I knew everything because I had lived through it myself as a child. I knew a lot about what not to do from experience, but I also learned a lot through trial and error that helped me become a better stepparent. With the support, patience and love from my husband, those beginning years gradually became easier, resulting in a strong & healthy relationship with my stepson, as well as a healthy relationship with his mom.
Although every situation is unique and different, there are a few important rules that I suggest in order to make the introduction and relationship development between stepparent and stepchild successful, and avoid future tensions within your blended family.
Tip #1: Have them get use to the idea of you before you meet.
If you have not met your partner’s child, have them talk about you first. For example, before I met my stepson, my husband showed him photos of me and said that I was his new friend. He talked about my interests and things we do together. My stepson was 2 ½ at the time, so doing this helped eliminate the sudden shock of me becoming apart of his life. 7 ½ years later, my stepson smiles and says “my first memory is when dad showed me a photo of you,” that always puts a smile on my face!
Tip #2: Spend time with your future stepchild before having overnights together.
It’s important to allow your future stepchild to get to know you before you become a regular presence in their home. In the beginning, spend overnights with your partner at times when your future stepchild is with the other parent. Plan daytime activities that include you, your future stepchild, and your partner so that he or she has the chance to become comfortable with you. This is especially important for middle school - high school aged children, as well as two families being blended into one.
Tip #3: Try to refrain from being overly critical of the Bio-mom or Bio-dad, and never speak bad about them in front of your stepchild.
Not only does this cause anxiety for your stepchild but puts him or her in a very uncomfortable situation that they later may resent you for. It is best to keep your opinions to yourself, or express them to a friend, family member, or therapist instead. While it is important for you to express your feelings it is not appropriate to do so in front of your stepchild.
Tip #4: Leave the disciplining up to the bio parents.
You want your relationship to start off positive and smooth, I recommend not jumping into a disciplinarian type role, even if you have bio children of your own. Remember you are entering into a family that has already established rules and boundaries, while your opinions do matter, it is best to let your partner take the reins until the relationship between stepparent and stepchild is established. This is especially the case for those with teen stepchildren.
Tip #5: Do not monopolize all of your partner’s time while your stepchild is home.
They need to spend one on one time with mom or dad. I always love to see my stepson and my husband spend one on one time together, and it is the perfect excuse for me to go shopping!
Tip #6: When and if comfortable, spend some one on one time with your stepchild.
This shows that you value your relationship with them, and will help your relationship grow strong. My stepson and I love to go to dine in movies together, book stores, and the beach. We love having dad around but have tons of fun when it’s just the two of us!
Tip #7: Don’t hide in the shadows but do not over step either.
One of the complicated things about stepparenting is finding that balance of your parenting role. This will come with time, but do not try to push mom aside and take over because you feel she isn’t going to do as good of a job as you at building a science fair project, picking out school supplies, or contributing to the school bake sale. Try to hold back, and fill in when needed, as time goes on you will pick up more responsibility if that is what you want.
Tip #8: If they miss the other parent, let them call to talk on the phone.
When my stepson was little he would sometimes say he missed his mom, so we always gave him the option to call her. This helped him feel better because he knew he had the option to talk to her anytime. For stepmoms this is one of those things where it can make you feel inadequate, or like your not a good enough mom figure. In reality, it isn’t personal and does not necessarily have anything to do with you. Remember, your stepchild is still adjusting to this new life too.
Tip #9: Don’t make unrealistic demands.
For example, do not make a rule at your house that your stepchild cannot talk about their mom when they are with you. That will make them feel uncomfortable and nervous, negatively impacting your relationship with them. Of course hearing about how much fun they had with mom is not always fun, but sometimes you have to bit the bullet, pretend you are thrilled to hear about it, and move forward. This will help strengthen your relationship and stepparent role.
Tip #10: Stay positive and always consider the impact on the future stepchild before acting (Written by my husband).
Children respond best to positive attitudes and are made anxious by conflict. Young children especially take emotional cues from their parental figures. A new relationship with a partner who has children is naturally going to have potential conflict. When confronted with a new stepparenting challenge, try not to react right away. Take a second to think about the how your action will impact this new person in your life who is also going through a challenging time. Then come at the challenge from a positive place with your future stepchild’s best interest at heart.