Marriage isn’t an easy enterprise, but when you marry someone who has kids, the difficulty for managing the relationship goes even higher. Having a good relationship with your step children is one of the most important components of having a good relationship with your spouse. Here are a few bits on what worked in our household:
1. Find ways to relate. Having mutual interests, such as music, biking, building projects, are important for finding a common ground to relate.
2. Accept your step children just the way they are. Be nonjudgmental and do not attempt to force change in your step children’s behavior. If you want them to eat healthy food or be patient, model the behavior yourself and let your step child decide whether to follow or not.
3. Be lighthearted. Let go of any need to control your step children. Be either positive in your reactions or completely neutral. You are not their parent, but trying to act like one will only back fire.
4. Be a friend. Be a good listener and offer a helping hand. However, if your help is refused, don’t be discouraged and wait for another opportunity when they are more receptive.
5. Feed them tasty-good food. This is a must. The way to a child’s heart is through food. Have frozen burritos, chicken pot pies, lasagna–whatever comfort food the kids like.
6. Be consistent. You cannot be lighthearted and positive one day but explode the next. You have to decide what are your priorities and practice your best to stay calm and quiet even when most annoyed by whatever behavior your step children exhibit.
7. Avoid taking sides in arguments with parent. As a step-parent, it is best to remain neutral in arguments between the child and parent. If you reinforce the parent’s side, you risk angering the child, and vice versa. Your neutrality will pay off after the dust has settled.
Being a step-parent is not easy but hopefully having a few strategies on hand will help.