It would be great if every step family out there could be The Brady Bunch. Unfortunately, it doesn't always go that smoothly. However, you can achieve an almost Brady Bunch feel even in a blended family, if you follow these tips. Try these steps to be a friend and not a foe when becoming a step parent.
1. Take Baby Steps
You have just married into this family and you have so much love to give! While you're ready to share your life, this new child has experienced a lot of change and uncertainty. Most likely he or she is not going to be ready to accept you. You'll need to prove that you're going to stick around. Let the relationship develop naturally. Pushing too hard in the beginning is a sure-fire way to become a foe. If your spouse's kids are being, or have been, cutoff from your partner it's even more crucial to take baby steps.
2. Put the Child's Needs First
It might be tempting to spoil a step child with all of their wants - to buy their love, so to speak. But there are certain needs that you must provide them with first. A child's needs include love, affection, and consistency. Material wants are best earned with things like good behavior.
3. Maintain House Rules
It's important to have very clear rules laid out that everyone is aware of. It's even more important that you maintain consistency with these rules. This will help with transitions and will also make everyone feel like they are being treated equally. Therefore, no hard feelings or being viewed as the evil step parent.
4. Embrace New Family Traditions
Create something special. Maybe do something one-on-one or as a family, for example, crafts or cooking together. Maybe just playing word games in the car. Just have fun and be yourself. You're not trying to win their love. You're just trying to get to know them better. If you try to force it, they will pick up on it and it will backfire.
5. Always Be Kind About Their Other Parent
No matter how poorly you might think of them, engaging in name calling and put-downs is not going to win you any brownie points. Remember, this child loves both parents unconditionally and will become defensive if you are putting down their mom or dad. EVEN if their other parent is displaying alienating behaviors.
And-- even if the child is complaining about the birth parent to you, you should always be respectful. Make sure you are courteous when speaking to the other parent as well. No matter how hard it might be, be the bigger person! You are not in competition with their bio parent.
6. Don't Turn the Kids Into Spies
Asking a child what happened when they were at the other parent's house will cause resentment. Ask if they had a good time and leave it at that. There's no need to go into more or ask what was said. If they offer it up that's one thing, but don't go fishing for it.
7. Leave the Kids Out of Adult Matters
If you have something you want to ask of the other parent, just ask it. There's no need to have the child ask grown-up questions of the parent. It will only put a bigger divide between everyone.
8. Maintain Communication
This is the cornerstone of any good relationship. Open and honest communication will make things work. Talk to everyone in the family and encourage the same from the children. Let them know you are there when they need someone to talk to and you're interested in their problems.
Don't expect everything to go smoothly right out of the gate. All of this is new and it's going to take a lot to get used to. There are going to be bumps along the way. The important thing is you don't give up. The best things in life don't come easy.
If you need more in-depth support on maintaining a healthy step/blended family, contact our team today to chat about how we can help get you on the path, especially if there is alienation happening. In the meantime, check out our free stepparents e-book!