Ever since Cinderella, step-mothers have become villains akin to wicked witches and big bad wolves. But today, when kids more than ever need the support and love of their adult family members, good relationships with step-parents are critical. While not an exact science, there are many ways you can help foster a loving, respectful relationship with your step children.
Make your first impression a good one.
If you’ve ever promised ice cream to a child, you know: kids remember. That’s why your first impression with would-be step-kids is super important. Don’t try to buy them off with expensive gifts, but make your first, short meeting a positive one. Many professionals advise against all-day affairs; let the kids get used to you bit by bit over time.
Never, ever speak negatively of the other parent.
It’s hard to be a step-dad. But complaining about the childrens’ biological dad isn’t going to help matters. Regardless of his faults, the kids’ dad will always be just that in their eyes. Don’t try to compete; try to find your own place in their lives.
Let them be sad.
Divorces are hard on kids, and they, like adults, need time to grieve their loss. Not allowing this can encourage them to project their negative feelings onto the “new person” in the family. Give the situation time, and give kids a safe space to voice their feelings.
Treat them like family.
Sometimes, step-parents overcompensate for their insecurity by making a big deal over the kids when they’re around. This may sound like a great idea in theory, but it can make the kids feel like they’re not part of your everyday family life. The sooner they feel like you’re a “normal” family, the better.
Give them parent-kid dates.
You might think your constant presence will inevitably help the kids accept you, but it might just make them feel like you’re encroaching on their relationship with their biological parent. Give your step-child time alone with your partner so they can bond. This will help the child realize you’re not a threat to their relationship.