My friends are always surprised when I tell them that I’m closer to my step-dad than I am to my biological father. One main reason for this state of affairs is that when I was younger my step dad appeared to me like an impartial man. I don’t remember him giving his biological kids any preferential treatment over me. To my young mind, we were all the same in his eyes. Even if, for argument’s sake, it was all a façade, I did not detect it.
In a blended family perceived fairness of the parents by the children prevents petty jealousies and resentment from cropping up among the children. As tempting as it might be, stepparents should endeavour not to show favouritism towards their biological kid at the expense of their stepchild.
2. Lead by example
I’ve heard of overzealous stepparents insisting that their stepchildren call them ‘mom’ or ‘dad’. Tensions usually arise when the younger party refuses to co-operate. Let the stepchild address you in whatever way they feel comfortable (as long as it’s not a nasty nickname). Rather concentrate on being the best parent you can be.
As a couple set the rules together. Don’t say “This what your father wants” or “This is what your mother wants” rather tell the children “This is what we want.” Put on a united front and all the children are likely to cooperate.
Be easy to live with by avoiding being overly critical and sweating over small stuff. If you feel your partner is being unfair to your biological child discuss it in private, not in front of the kids.
3. Create memories
One of the best memories that I have is when my stepfather took my stepbrothers and me for a boys’ day out to teach us how to play golf. His taking his time to teach three restless teenage boys to play the game showed us he cared. Being in the company of my stepfather playing a game of golf with his friends gave me a different insight into the man who I usually viewed as the disciplinarian at home. On the golf course, I saw a playful man, joking with fellow golfers. This allowed me to bond us with him because on the golf course he wasn’t this authoritarian figure but a fellow player. Doing activities that you and your stepchildren enjoy will endear you to them.
3. Avoid nasty family politics
In a blended family, there are many opportunities to play nasty family politics. As a stepparent, you might be tempted to bad mouth the stepchild’s absent parent especially if you suspect that he or she is having a negative influence on the stepchild. Badmouthing your stepchild’s parent makes you seem like the enemy in the child’s mind. Do not block access of the absent parent to their child, your stepchild. This normally leads to resentment being directed towards you when the child is older.
4. Focus on the prize
Being in a blended family has its unique challenges but with proper handling of the situation, some joys can be reaped. For some time now, I’ve been living in a different country to my parents. To my surprise, I recently discovered that I phone my step-dad more often than his biological children. Could it be that although I don’t share the same DNA with him I care more? What I do know is that he touched my heart.
Are you a step-parent? What are the challenges when it comes to creating a bond with step-children?