Building and Promoting Healthy Relationships with Your Stepchild
Social interaction, not routine care, is the most important part of step parenting. The more social interaction an adolescent has with you, the more strongly attached he becomes to you. It is easiest for step parents to begin initiating positive interaction with a teenager as the family begins its new life together. If you happen to get off on the wrong foot in your relationship, don't give up. The following suggestions are good ways to build and promote a healthy relationship between step parent and child:
- Show affection: hugs, kisses, and physical closeness.
- Help your stepchild to meet expectations of the other parent (your spouse).
- Show genuine interest in his activities.
- Support the adolescent's outside activities by providing transportation or being an adult sponsor for one of his activities.
- Display interest in your stepchild's school performance. Help him with homework when he needs it, but don't expect him to ask for help. Be careful not to nag.
- Help your stepchild to understand your family "jokes" or sayings.
- Read together, or play games together. Being together and doing things of common interest is a tremendous aid in building relationships.
- Go shopping together and on special outings. If your remarriage involves mixing sets of kids, try to take them out together sometimes and separately sometimes. Taking turns can be very fun. You won't be so tired and each child can have a little special time alone with you.
- Teach your stepchild a new living skill: cooking, baking, changing spark plugs, and repairing a door. Involve him with you as you carry on the normal tasks of maintaining a home.
- Trust your stepchild.
- Show interest in and acceptance of his friends.
- Stand by your stepchild if he gets in trouble.
- Be affectionately firm and consistent in discipline. It is extremely important that both parents agree on the standards and discipline. And be fair and loving as you administer the discipline. Your stepchild will respond if he has understandable reasons for his expected behavior.
- Accept your stepchild as he is. Each of us has little differences which make us interesting. Appreciate your stepchild for the person he is without forcing him into your mold.
- Cultivate a love for him and make it known. Tell your stepchild you love him and show it. Most teenagers need to see love in action as much as they need to hear it.
- Give your stepchild a place of importance in your home. Make him an integral part of the family unit by giving him a voice in family decisions and responsibilities in the home.
Remember, shared laughter and shared tears are powerful bonding tools. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable will strengthen your relationship.
The responsibility of step parenting is a demanding and difficult task, but it's also one which can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. As a step parent, it will be of vital importance to always be honest with yourself and the youngster, to be realistic, to be positive, and to be prepared to have your feelings hurt along the way. At times it may feel like it's a thankless job, but keep in mind that you are helping to raise the future parent of your "grandchildren." Doing your best today will pay off in greater dividends later.