Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How to Build Trust With Your Step-Children

A blended family is a challenging thing to build securely. Stepchildren may resent you as the new parent, offer disrespect, or simply be aloof and stand-offish. To grow into a unit that works together as well as living together, there are a few guidelines that will prove helpful.

Hold Realistic Expectations

A new stepparent can feel a great deal of pressure from several directions to have things ideal right away. The other parent, the stepchildren, parents and in-laws alike as grandparents, and family friends can all burden you with high expectations. The challenge is to be realistic. Children of all ages will take time to adapt. Even smooth beginnings can turn into rough waters, so it is wise to anticipate and prepare with milder plans.

Respect Traditions

One of the ways to set yourself up for success is to respect the traditions that have been established in the stepchildren’s family mindset. Take the time to learn about them, show genuine interest in them, and ask to be a part of them. Coming into a family and promptly attempting to change the way things have been is a recipe for disaster. Do not worry, new traditions will form that involve you as the stepparent. Just do not try to rush these new traditions; allow the stepchildren to lead the way and show enthusiasm for their ideas.

Build a Foundation of Friendship

Friendship is a great start for building a relationship with stepchildren. This is essential while establishing trust. If you lack ideas for what to say, try looking at stepdad quotes, which combine wisdom, experience, and expert wording. Remember that relationships require time to have a firm foundation on which to build. Friendships are relationships that allow for open communication, shared interests, and new traditions. You are not simply marrying one person, but joining a family unit that requires personal relationships with each stepchild.

Encourage Openness

While, realistically, it will take time for a stepchild to confide in a stepparent, encouraging open dialogues is important in working on trust in a new relationship. Let the members of the established family know that fears and insecurities can be shared in a safe space. Tell them that their emotions are valid and ask them to feel free to discuss them with you. This goes back to enjoying friendship as a basis for the relationship with each stepchild. Friends can communicate openly with each other without fear of judgment or recrimination.

Allow Some Space

The parent and children will need some space away from you. This is not meant to feel exclusionary, but simply is a fact of life. Eventually, the stepchildren will want solo time with you, as well. Let them have special outings or one-on-one time together at home. This is a great time to connect with friends who might feel edged out of your life given your new marriage. This also allows for existing traditions to carry on. If they always go for ice cream on Fridays, let them have that time to themselves.

Share Enthusiasm

Show interest in the hobbies and interests of stepchildren. Be completely sincere, for they will sense when you are humoring them or patronizing them. This will cause a backslide in the building of trust. It is far easier to build a relationship on shared interests, so explore their passions and express your honest wish to be involved in them. If they are interested in art, show interest in their work or their favorite artists. You do not need to like their tastes in music to show curiosity in it.

Let the Parent Discipline

While house rules should be established as a unit, the biological parent should handle the role of disciplinarian. Have a family discussion about rules and consequences. Make clear that rules are to be obeyed even when the other parent is not at home so that if you must discipline, an open expectation has been set for you to do so.

Blended families can work out smoothly with a little work and understanding. Stepparents with realistic ambitions and an open desire to communicate and be friends with stepchildren will find eventual success in creating a new family unit. These steps will establish trust and ensure a family rich with wellbeing.

Tim Esterdahl

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