Being a step-parent can be an extremely rewarding yet challenging experience. If you are (or are about to be) a new step-parent, you probably want this process to go smoothly.
You will be spending a lot of time around your partner’s children in the years to come. So, it is best for everyone to get along. It will greatly benefit you to bond with the child rather than make an enemy. Instead of seeing you as an obstacle to avoid or overcome, you should want them to perceive you as a bonus mom or bonus dad. Of course, this isn’t always easy.
A Closer Look at Being a Bonus Mom
When I met my partner, I was divorced with children of my own but had never dated anyone with children. When we decided to blend our families, I was surprised that his son would have trouble connecting to me. After all, I am a mother and a teacher. Connecting with kids is what I do!
I quickly learned that for children, adapting to a parent’s new partner can be one of the most taxing blended family challenges to overcome. They probably are not very familiar with this new parent, and even if they are, they may still house some negative feelings.
For one thing, they might feel as if this new person is trying to take the place of the other parent. This is a common sentiment in any blended family that while understandable, can be hurtful.
With these situations come conflicts that aren’t always easy to resolve. Here are a few ways to do that in a constructive manner.
Build a Bond with the Other Parent
Most of the time, when families, don’t blend well, it is because of the adults and not the children. Messy divorces, remarriages, problems co-parenting, jealousy, and just ‘not getting along’ can make being a step-parent seem like a nightmare and not a blessing.
However, if you can show the other parent that you want what is best for the children and desire to be a part of the team, not a replacement, you should be able to find common ground.
Be a School-Related Resource
When kids don’t understand something that they are learning in school, they appreciate having an adult to ask for help. Parents are especially well-suited to fit this role, and step-parents are no different. If the child is having trouble with their homework be eager to sit down and help out. Not only will they appreciate your going out of your way, your partner will, as well.
If they are not enjoying school as a whole, one thing to do would be to show them the fun side of learning. This is why our math games were developed – to help children enjoy a subject that they wouldn’t otherwise. If you can make school more fun for them, they will perform better and feel closer to you as a result.
Being involved in their academic life outside of homework will help as well. Many schools have a parent-run organization, such as a PTA. Joining it with your partner will allow you to positively influence what is happening in the child’s school. It will also show that you care. Dedicating your time to their well-being will make you feel good. You’ll make a positive difference and make the children feel good about having someone in their life who will.
Help with their Hobbies
If the child has something they like to do, enable them to improve at it as well as participate in it more. It might cost a bit of money and time. Still, the rewards you will reap as a bonus mom or bonus dad will be well worth it.
Their hobby could be anything, really. If they participate in athletics, consider signing up to coach their team or simply help them improve their skills. If they are more artistic, sit down with them and make some of your own. Even kids who play video games like having someone (even a step-parent) to play with. Whether you are letting them beat you in a two-player game or helping them complete a level, doesn’t matter. They will love the fact that you are taking your time to spend time with them.
Take a Trip
Everybody needs a vacation once in a while, and everybody likes going on them. Kids love going to places like Disney World, or even on camping trips. If you are the one organizes these trips, they will look forward to spending time with you and having fun.
Theme parks are fun for most children, but they can cost quite a bit of money. It is just as well to take them to a children’s entertainment center near you if you need to be more frugal. The beach is also a cheap option depending on where you live.
If you do not want to fly to a far-away land or drive for several hours on end, you may not need to go far. Sometimes a simple “trip” to their favorite restaurant or the movies will suffice. Once you gain a good understanding of the things they enjoy, take them to those fun places every once in a while.
Even in the best of blended families, issues arise. Part of being a great step-parent is supporting children through normal emotions one feels when big changes occur. If they are angry, sad, hurt, feel abandoned, etc. try not to take it personally. Instead, reassure them that what they are feeling is normal and that you are there to support no matter what.
Being a bonus mom or bonus dad might seem intimidating at first, but the key is to simply create a positive relationship. Do whatever is necessary to show them that you are on their side and that you want them to be happy, and you should have no problem getting along.
The methods listed above are just a few ways to help you build this solid relationship. You will find that taking these steps and others will lead to a good long-term relationship with your step-children, as well as a better relationship with your partner.