Being a stepparent can be tricky and, at times, daunting. Even more so if you aren’t a biological parent yourself. Building a relationship with stepchildren is about finding a balance between being another authority figure in a child’s life, while also being a friend and not trying to replace the other parent.
Friendship is a good place to start with a stepchild. But it’s important to be aware that (depending on how amicable the split was) the child may feel disloyal to the other parent if they admit to liking you. Have patience and take it slow. It takes time to build trust and relationships – and this one is no different to any other in that respect.
Be aware of your stepchild’s need to have space and spend one-on-one time with their biological parent. Be accepting of their wishes to take outings together and spend quality time at home just the two of them. This doesn’t mean you should disappear into the background, just have patience, let the child lead and they’ll let you know when the time is right for you to join in more.
Take time to learn about your stepchild’s interests and engage with them about things they’re passionate about. Make sure you are sincere though, as children are clever and will soon pick up on whether your enthusiasm is genuine or not.
No matter what your feelings are towards the other biological parent, never let the child see or hear any disrespect towards them. If they want to talk about them, listen without judgement.
Always remember to keep a sense of humour, even if it isn’t always fun. Don’t pressure yourself (or others) into thinking you need to create a perfect little life for your ‘new’ family. It won’t always run smoothly but the more you can laugh, the more everyone will adjust in a positive way.