Being a new stepparent can be an intimidating proposition. With time, patience and communication your new family will fall into comfortable rhythms of life.
1. Take It Slow
A divorce can be stressful on children. It may take a while for them to reach equilibrium again. The best advice here is to take it slow. Keep in mind while your significant other (biological parent) may be ready to move on once the paperwork goes through, children often learn of an impending divorce long after the wheels were already turning and thus may need more time to process. Let the children get used to you gradually and don’t try to force yourself into a role they aren’t ready to accept yet.
2. Present a United Front
Have a meaningful conversation with your partner about the rules of the household. When children sense they can get away with something with one parent and not the other, you know who they’re going to ask. Present a stable, united front with your partner to make sure the rules are enforced. Donald B Phelps Law Corp is a Vancouver family lawyer who deals with divorce and family break ups all the time. Donald observed a lack of communication can be the cause of divorce from time to time. He has said communication is key. Be on the same page and present a united front.
3. Have Family Meetings
It’s important everyone’s voice be heard in a setting where they aren’t going to get in trouble for it. Consider weekly or monthly family meetings where everyone can safely voice their concerns and feelings. While it may be painful to hear if the children are having a hard time accepting you, as the adult, it’s your job to accept their feelings as valid and work from there to form a better relationship.
With these meetings, there are some times where children might think it’s just some boring punishment and they might not be fully engaged and participate. Try doing something fun like going to dinner or taking a mini trip and talk on the way there. If they are not just forced to sit on the couch and stare at each other and being expected to say something, they’re less likely to participate constructively.
4. Have Some Quality Time
Spend some time with each child one on one. Take them to a park, the mall or see a movie. Pick an activity the child truly loves and spend some time getting to know each other. Home may feel like their territory at first, so diffuse some potential tension by getting to know each other on neutral ground. Just like the family meetings, it might not be best to spend “quality” time in front of the T.V. or around the dining room table.
If you are going to be home, try starting game night, let the kids choose the game or pick the movie. When family members are integrating into new families, it is super common for them to feel left out or neglected. Make sure they feel included!
5. Be Patient
Children will be able to tell if you are getting frustrated with them. They may try to test boundaries and push the limits to see if you are really committed and here to stay. Stay firm but fair with your discipline and show the children while you won’t be manipulated or pushed around, you also care for them and want to invest in their lives.
With time, patience, and communication the new family unit will grow and flourish.