How Can Stepparents Forge Happier and Stronger Relationships With Their Stepchildren?
And finally, the stepfather and mom need to agree on how they're going to parent.
They may also be experiencing things that have nothing to do with the new stepparent. Being too eager to force a relationship may backfire. Giving kids time to get used to you may prove beneficial over time. “The greatest chance to be a positive influence can only be achieved through patient bonding,” advises John Patrick Jacobson, a stepfather of two teenaged children and founder of website, Stepfathers.com. Your spouse plays a vital role in helping kids and stepparents build a positive relationship. Tad Benson, a stepdad of a six-year-old boy and founder of Stepdads.com warns that sometimes “Moms tend to try and force it and make everything all right, but it won’t pay off in the long run.” Benson maintains, rather than rush the relationship, “it will take time and it needs to be built on mutual trust and acceptance.” He states, “your goal initially is to survive.” Based on his experience, Benson adds, “as long as everyone is mutually respected and there’s love abounding, you should strive to create your own relationship and family dynamics.” Benson warns that, “stepdads need to see themselves as stepdads, not biological dads.” Though this may be difficult to accept when you are eager to forge new relationships with stepkids, but Benson feels this belief will help to build a better foundation. A new, special bond will most likely develop naturally over time. According to a recent poll completed by stepdads, conversation is the best way to connect with stepchildren. This is followed by activities of mutual interest such as computer games and sports. Stepparents may make progress building relationships with stepchildren by trying to be a loving relative, instead of a parent. Understand that the child may feel threatened and concerned about their place in the family. Children may worry about their relationship with your spouse, their parent Benson comments, “the thing that worked best for me and our family was that I had an outlook that framed all of my interactions.” In his experience with his stepson, Benson says, “I look at him as an individual, a family member, a loved one that I am helping raise, to mentor, to love, and a friend and a parent when appropriate.” He suggests providing a stepchild with a “sanctuary of love” at home.
Pryor and Rodgers (2001) indicate that, particularly in the early phases of a stepfamily, authoritative parenting is difficult for stepfathers to adopt and, in fact, authoritative parenting is less likely to occur in stepfamilies overall, even by biological parents. In adolescence, however, there is some suggestion that permissive step parenting is not only desired by children, but may be optimal for them (Pryor & Rodgers, 2001).
This uncertainty affects their ability to create and maintain a satisfying relationship with their stepchild. This challenge is greater for stepmothers, who are more likely than stepfathers to struggle with not wanting to compete with the biological parent. Stepmothers are more likely than stepfathers to consider themselves parenting but not a real parent.
Pryor, J., & Rodgers, B. (2001). Children in changing families: Life after parental separation. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
Daniel, B., Wassell, S., & Gilligan, R. (1999). Child development for child care and protection workers. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Cartwright, C. (2005). Stepfamily living and parent-child relationships: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Family Studies, 11, 267283.