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Being in a new relationship always has its challenges but it is even truer when those challenges include children. I suggest, before even meeting the children make sure that the relationship that you are in, is serious.
I don’t feel that it is fair to the kids if you meet them and then are not to be seen again.
The divorce or separation has already taken a toll on them; they don’t need more to worry about. Just make sure that you are ready for the type of commitment of raising someone else’s children.
If you do not want to get to know the children, step away from the relationship. But if you do, be prepared to feel rewarded with love.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
Don’t force it (move slowly)
You can’t force anyone to like you just like you can’t force the kids to have a bond with you.
Move at their pace even if it takes a while for them to warm up to you. If you force them, they will try to move further away.
They will start to feel attacked and try to avoid you at all costs because they are afraid. Divorce can cause some kids to think that one parent may not want them.
This especially true if they only see that parent every other weekend when before they saw them all the time. They will not want to get close to someone else for fear that they too may leave.
Let them come to you.
Don’t be fake. If you are trying too hard to get to know them, kids will see right through this.
Be yourself and don’t try too hard to befriend them. If you are in the relationship for the long haul, you have all the time in the world to bond with them.
Show them the great person that you are and that you care about them.
Find something in common
Get to know the kids by finding what they are interested in.
Find common interests between the two of you and do the activity together, just the two of you.
If you don’t have anything in common, whatever the situation is, this would be a great chance to learn something new.
Showing them that you took the initiative to get to learn about their interests will excite them, especially if their parents don’t show an interest.
Be Swiss when it comes to the outside parent
Whatever you do, do not bad mouth the other parent even if they are bad mouthing you.
Stay away from this at all costs. Those kids love both their parents and you bad mouthing one or the other parent will put you in a bad place in the kids’ eyes.
The kids can talk bad about their parents but you cannot.
Time and effort
Put the time and effort into bonding with the kids. Bonding with someone does not happen overnight.
It will take time to get to know them and for them to come around and wanting to get to know you. Take the effort because if you don’t do anything, nothing will happen.
Treat it like you would any other relationship because you can’t expect someone to like you right away.
Allow time for the grieving process
Allow time for the kids to grieve the divorce.
Divorces can get messy and in these cases children need their space. They don’t always know what is going on or how to react because their life just got turned upside down.
Children need a routine.
One day mom and dad are there together, the next day one parent is gone and someone they have never met is in the house.
No matter how often you tell children that mom and dad are not getting back together, in the back of their mind it could still happen.
So you coming in will be the last thing that they will want at this point and they will fight because of it. Give them time to find that new routine.
Treat step children as family
Treat the kids like you would treat any of your other family members.
They are your family now too; it’s a package deal. Include them in on holidays and family get-togethers.
This will help with bonding with them because you are letting them into your world and they will feel included.
Getting your family involved as well is always a plus. What I mean by this is buying holiday gifts for all the grand kids not just the ones that are blood related.
Nobody wants to feel like they are left out, especially children.
Get lost at times
If your spouse has been single or divorced for a while the kids will have gotten used to this and in that routine.
They have mom or dad’s full attention at all times but when they start a new relationship, they feel that attention is no longer theirs.
Give them time to spend alone with their biological parent. Show the children that you don’t want to take their time away from that parent instead you want to add yourself to the mix.
Trust and honesty
Develop a relationship with trust and honesty with the children.
Show the children that you can keep their secret and won’t blab everything that the two of you talk about to your significant other. Be honest with them because this is the foundation of any relationship.
Tell them how it is and how it’s going to be.
You don’t have to sugar coat things for them, they will appreciate the honesty. Their biological parents are probably already sugar coating for them because most often they feel bad about the divorce or split.
Help with homework
Getting involved with their studies is a great way to bond with them.
Your spouse may not be great at all the subjects that the children are taking and you may know a little more in some than others as well.
Help each other out and work as a team.
Even having a different way of explaining problems to the children than your spouse can be helpful.
Be a cheerleader
Everyone likes a compliment or to be given praise so be that person for the kids.
Go to their sporting events or let them know that they did an amazing job on a science project. Giving them praise and being their biggest cheerleader raises you to number one in their books.
This shows them that you care about what they do or how well they do it.
Don’t play favorites
Whatever you do, don’t play favorites with anything or anyone.
- among your own children OR
- between the two kids, if your spouse has more than one.
Treat everyone equally because kids grow up resenting that parent that played favorites.
Ask your partner for advice
If you are stuck in a dilemma that you aren’t quite sure how to react to, ask your partner.
They have been raising the kids since day one. They may have come across that situation before and know how to handle it.
It does not show a sign of weakness or that you can’t handle being a parent. If anything, it shows that you are willing to ask for help when you need it and work as a team to solve the problem.
Learn from others
Asking others that are in your same situation can help as well. Learning from others about their failures or achievements can give you a different perspective.
There are multiple times where I will call my step dad to get his advice versus calling my mom because, well, he helped raise me. I know exactly what I put him through.
Become part of a community that has gone through or are going through exactly what you are going through can be very helpful.
Being in a relationship with kids can be a lot of different emotions for you as well as for the kids.
Take a step back, give the kids space, and become involved in what they enjoy doing. Show them that you are their biggest cheerleader and that you want to become a part of their family instead of replacing the missing parts.
Talk things through and you will soon find that your bond with the kids is stronger than you imagined it would ever be.