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As if raising a family is not hard enough; let’s add raising a happily blended family to that. This is the part where I tip my hat off to all step parents out there. They are the beautiful people who raise our children as a choice.
I watch as my partner, Wayne, engages with my children. It’s hot and it’s cold, black and white, touch and go. I’m almost sure that Katy Perry wrote her song from the perspective of a step-parent.
“‘Cause you’re hot then you’re cold,
You’re yes then you’re no,
You’re in then you’re out,
You’re up then you’re down,
You’re wrong when it’s right,
It’s black and it’s white,
We fight, we break up,
We kiss, we make up,
You don’t really want to stay, no
But you don’t really want to go-oh”
~ Katy Perry
Children have amazing talent at testing boundaries. I think mine have turned it into a sport. I can almost imagine them plotting together – Who’s gonna be the most horrible child today? I am! No, I am! Sometimes I think about handing out Miss Rude trophies.
Wayne has eternal patience for the children. “But even the most patient person has their limits”, I often remind the children.
Here are 4 Proven Tips for Connecting With Your Step Children
Read the The Best Books About Step Families as published in Parents
Blending and Emulsifying
Everybody who has tried to make their own salad dressing knows that water and oil don’t mix. But if take your time adding the water to the oil, or vise versa; and use a natural emulsifier, like honey; the the two eventually become one, creating a beautiful dressing.
In this same way, it takes a while for blended families to become one. Your children are the oil, your partner is the water, and you are the honey.
Family experts say that it takes between two to five years (yes, two to five long years!!) for a blended family to settle. So keep that in mind to help keep you going. Until then, you can expect for your patience to be tried over and over again.
Respect for one another
Yes, yes – we always hear this. But is it really any surprise to learn that it is true?
Respect goes both ways and simply being an adult does not necessarily warrant this.
It is important for your new partner to respect your children as little human beings. They are, after all, young people who have their own thoughts, feelings, and insecurities. If your partner does not show respect towards your children; how then can they learn and return the show of respect? In the same manner, it is important that your partner shows your children that he or she respects you.
So how do you show respect, you ask? It’s all very simple, you might not even realise that you’re already doing it. If you are – well done!
- Say good morning. Acknowledge their presence!
- Knock before entering their rooms. They need their privacy too.
- Offer them a drink when you are pouring yourself one. Non-alcholic of course… unless you want them to go to sleep early. Oh my gosh – JK JK JK!
- Ask how they are feeling – are you cold? Are you hot? Would you like a blanket?
- Etc etc etc…
It all sounds very simple, yes. But as we all know, children learn from example. Be a good one.
You’re not my Mum OR You’re not my Dad
This is probably the line that floats in and out of your children’s minds. Consider yourself lucky if you haven’t already had it said to you or your new partner. It kinda stings. But they’re right. As the step-parent, you are not their Mum or their Dad.
This needs to be addressed; and not only when it is said. You must be consistent in reminding your children that their new step-parent is not there to take anyone’s place. Their bio Mum or bio Dad will always be Mum or Dad.
As with the point about respect above – you must respect their bio Mum or Dad. Never say anything against their bios (no matter how infuriating they can be at times).
Find Common Ground and Share your Time
When the children began to live with Wayne and I full time, it was a difficult adjustment. Children feel like they have no choice in the matter, and this is another contributing factor to their discomfort. They are suddenly faced with having to live with a man or woman they know very little about, if any at all.
A simple, but effective, way of connecting with your step-children is to find some common ground. Whether it may be through sport, entertainment, books, or similar.
Wayne began by organising a Wednesday Games Night. Each Wednesday, Wayne makes sure he is home early from work. I have dinner ready – as well as dessert, because why not! We all sit down to dinner together and talk about our days.
We ask the children open-ended questions to keep them engaged and thinking. This means that we ask them questions about their day that they cannot answer with a simple yes or no. By asking them open-ended questions, we open the opportunity for conversation. It also makes the children feel that what they have to say is important. And that is very important.
Try it out:
Ask your child, “Tell us something new you learned in school today?”, as opposed to, “Did you have a good day?”.
The first question can be answered with a simple yes or no, which can shut the conversation down quite quickly.
The second question gets the child thinking about what they learned. And from there, you can ask them another question.
After dinner, we all go into the lounge, where the fire is burning and it’s cozy and warm. Every Wednesday, each member of the family gets a chance to choose the game of the night. My favourite is Scattergories! When summer comes around, I’m definitely getting this amazing Giant 4-In-A-Row Family Garden Games.
Since we started this, the children have always looked forward to Wednesday Games Night. And if the clock is ticking and Wayne is no where to be seen; they ask after him or send him a text message – “It’s games night. Are you coming home soon?”
Other ways that Wayne has tried to find common ground with the children is through music. Miss 12, who is also the more difficult one of the two to connect with, loves her music. Wayne has taken the time to ask her about her music. He even asked her to create a music play list for him on Spotify. This has created a small, but relevant bond between them. Every time she comes across a new song, she tells him about it and asks to show him the new music video and puts it on his playlist.
Miss 9, is a highly organised, stationery loving girl. With her, Wayne has gone out of his way to find new stationery items from the local dollar stores – whether a simple post-it in a new colour or a notebook that has a nice cover. Miss 9 now makes it a point to ask to show Wayne her new organisation tips and finds. Just last night, she talked him through bullet journaling.
Whatever you choose – choosing to do so shows the children that you do care about them and their world. Giving them your time and attention is important, no matter what age they are.
Having a family is a truly wonderful gift
In the end, raising a family is hard. Raising a blended family can be a little bit harder. The best piece of advice I can give is this: Having a family is a truly wonderful gift. We all have our quirks. Some days are tough, and others not so. But keep your chin up and keep trying. Everyday is a new day, and today is a chance to be a better parent then we were yesterday.
“Everyday is a new day, and today is a chance to be a better parent then we were yesterday. “