Tips for happy step-kids

Common reactions in children that are suddenly placed in a new environment include anger, guilt, confusion and uncertainty. Given that their biological parents’ relationship didn’t last, they have no way of knowing that this relationship will last either. If one parent died, will the other one live? Will the step-parent leave too?

Big changes

In addition to the loss of a parent, the child may have had to move home, change schools and no longer have contact with the same friends and family. These are additional losses and changes which can add to the child’s insecurity and frustration.

Children reveal their unexpressed emotions in various ways and may have physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches, or regressive behaviour such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking. Their anger may be     directed at the one who has left, or transferred to the remaining parent or step-parent.

It usually helps to talk things through as a family, hearing each person’s point of view and discussing everyone’s feelings.

Who comes first now?

Changing the birth order in a family may cause confusion and this also affects children’s behaviour. For an only child, instant siblings are a huge adjustment. Other children may now be in a different place – a youngest becomes a middle child and may not receive all the attention as the baby of the family, whilst an eldest is now further down the line and has lost his or her privileged position.

Parents can compensate for these changes where appropriate and help the children adjust to their current positions.  For example: give extra attention to a youngest that is now a middle child and allow an only child to have space away from the family.

Give equal attention

Children may have been used to the undivided attention of their parent when they lived in a single-parent family. Now they have to share their parent, and it will take time for them to adjust. Reassurance and special one-on-one times with that parent will help them to accept the new situation.

Build a healthy step-family

How do you cope with step-kids?
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