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How to Build Trust and Acceptance with Stepchildren

If you’ve remarried after your divorce, or are dating again, chances are you’re in a relationship with someone that you have a lot in common with. The two of you may be around the same age, have the same professional goals, or have children from a previous relationship. And, if you may become a stepparent soon (or are already one) you’re probably looking for the things you have in common with the children of your new spouse. Here are some suggestions for effectively getting along with your stepchildren.

Be a friend first

It’s important to make sure that your stepchildren know that you actually want to be their friend, and are not looking to replace their parent. Spending time finding out what your stepchildren like to do will help you decide which activities to plan for them, and you should always be open to getting suggestions from your stepchildren about how and when they would like to spend time with you. You may also want to resist the urge to constantly discipline your stepchildren, especially right after you officially become a stepparent. In most cases, children may already feel awkward or angry about not living with both parents, and may even resent the fact that you have become a part of their lives. So, try to give suggestions for better behavior, rather than setting certain rules for the children at first. In time, most children will see that you do know what your place is in their lives, and will come to respect your advice and discipline.

Learn to share

In a situation where one parent remarries, it can be difficult for everyone in the family to adjust. It’s important that you make sure your spouse is spending time with their children, without having to worry about whether or not you feel neglected. Of course, couples who have just been married want to spend all the time they can together, but when children are involved, their needs often overlap with a couple’s personal time. Your spouse needs to know that you realize that he or she is a parent first, and that you want to help make sure that every member of the family is taken care of. The children in the family need to know that you are not trying to take their parent away from them, and when everyone in the family is comfortable with their roles, things in your new family will run much more smoothly.

Give it some time

Most importantly, give your relationship with your stepchildren time to grow. Don’t go into the new marriage or your interaction with your spouse’s children thinking that everything will be perfect, especially not right away. You are, essentially, creating a new family, and it will take time for everyone to get used to living with one another. Realize that your stepchildren may be just as scared and unsure of things as you are, so be patient—you’re both learning together. It’s also a good idea to let your stepchildren know that you are always available to talk, if they ever want to discuss how they feel about their parent’s new marriage, or whether or not they want to live with the parent who is not in the home. Hearing feedback from your stepchildren may be a little painful at first, but most of that anger and resentment is directing toward the divorce of their parents, and not necessarily at you. Let your stepchildren know that you understand their fears, and are willing to work with them to make sure that the new household benefits everyone.

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