Blending different families together to create one family is difficult. Each family has a different dynamic, routine, style, and by adding a different parent – with or without their own children – can cause all sorts of upheaval. Bonding with your new stepchildren especially is no easy task.
Spending Time Together
As a stepdad – new to the position or as an old hat – sometimes you can be viewed as an outsider to the family, and you cannot expect your stepchildren will automatically cherish your time together. However, if you start small and slow and stay consistent, eventually you can create a relationship through spending time together you both will cherish.
Start by being interested in their school, church, and extracurricular activities. Ask how that math test went, drive them to practices, and attend performances and games. This lets you be involved without coming on too strong.
Group time and one-on-one time are both important for creating a new relationship. Spending time in a family group helps reduce any anxiety your stepchild may feel if they have not yet had time to feel comfortable with you. Once your stepchild is comfortable with the idea, move on to short one-on-one time.
Make sure your one-on-one time is noncompetitive. The sports and competitions can come later, after you have a secure bond. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, visit the zoo, or do a service project. If you have a particular skill or talent your stepchild is interested in, share it with them.
If you play the guitar or do woodworking, and your stepchild wants to learn more about it, take the time to show them how. Become interested in their activities and interests as well. If they have a hobby, talent, a book they are reading, or video game they are playing, let them tell you about it. Sharing interests is a great natural way to connect and build trust between you and your stepchild.
Why Creative Time?
Having free creative time helps children learn to problem solve, innovate, think outside the box, and learn critical thinking skills that will help them throughout their lives. It also gives them the opportunity to express themselves and discover their own style of doing things.
Creative play with small children improves physical dexterity, teaches kids how to navigate group dynamics and working as a team, while teaching them to be able to take different facts and combine them in novel and useful ways. It allows them to appreciate different ways of looking at the world and the things around them, learn focus and concentration, and develop good relationships.
Some things like creating a painting or learning an instrument take time to learn and lots of practice, so it teaches them concentration and discipline and constructive ways to express their emotions.
Be sure to supply materials to encourage creativity. Old pots and spoons, paints, a huge stack of paper with different colors –I got mine wholesale from Craft Direct—pens, blocks, dress up clothes, books, blank notebooks, musical instruments, build-yourself model sets, and whatever else your stepchild may be interested in is a great way to start.
Also allow opportunities for creative stimulation. Take them to art galleries, museums, and concerts. Let them attend workshops and camps. Play with them—build a couch fort or play pirates. Create a secret family language. Make a family musical. Go planet hopping during the day—vacuuming and dishes are much more fun on Mars than they are at home.
Remember stepchildren often feel confused about having to make a relationship with a stepfather, feeling both welcoming and resentful, and wondering how they stay loyal to their relationship with their biological father as well as with you. You have to create a different relationship with your stepchildren than they have with their biological father, and that can be hard.
Give children space and time to work through their feelings, and let them lead the pace of your new relationship. Do not try to force togetherness – that will only create bad feelings and distrust. Even small acts on your part – like letting your stepchild use your car for a date night – can build trust between you.
It may take months to years to finally form that bond you are working for, but by being patient, and helping that bond – and your stepchild – grow and form, eventually you will have that relationship you are looking for.
Leslie Mason is a homemaker and garden expert. Leslie enjoys writing, gardening, do-it-yourself projects, and fixing up the house. For wholesale craft supplies, check out Craft Direct. Leslie has previously written for Support for Stepdads check out her post, Navigating Post-Divorce Relationships with Stepchildren.