Published: Sun 31 May 2020
Stepdads and Blended Families
The learnings in this article series are based on our research and years of experience supporting fathers and father-figures. But the fact is, everyone’s situation is different, so feel free to be creative, and adapt our wisdom to suit your circumstances.
How do I build solid relationships with my new children?
Healthy relationships don’t just happen, they need to be cultivated. You have to spend quality time to really get know each other.
Contents of this article
- How to be approachable
- Guide to being respectful and kind
- How to express your emotions respectfully
- Find the common ground
Tip 1: Being approachable
- Show your step-kids that you are available and show them you are keen to keep the door open for this relationship to build.
- If you notice small signs of your stepchild reaching out to you, try to remove distractions and be open to connecting (e.g. put your phone down, pause your movie or step away from your other tasks).
- Suggesting you do small tasks together like shopping, cooking or walking dogs can be low-fuss way to create time to talk. These regular invitations also reassure your step-child that you are still open to connecting (even after a long time, and even if they’re not often accepted).
Tip 2: Being respectful and kind
- Go out of your way to do kind things, even where this is not reciprocated. This a subtle way of showing you are prepared to make the effort that is needed.
- Any child deserves a reasonable amount of privacy. This is especially so when someone new is moving into their family. Beware of boundaries and give them space.
- Unless there is serious concern about the child’s behaviour or activity – the more space they are given, the more trusted they will feel.
- Be respectful of the routines and belongings. The less you upset the ‘norm’ in the initial stages, the less likely they will feel you are pushing into their space.
Tip 3: How to express your emotions respectfully
- Children may not be as forgiving of stepparents when mistakes are made.
- When stress and conflict arise, make sure you manage yourself with a level head.
- Keep in mind that children may be testing you to see how you respond under pressure, and to see if you are trustworthy. Be aware of your responses.
- Communicate through your actions that it is safe for the child to be vulnerable around you and you’ll notice them softening with time.
Tip 4: Finding the common ground
- Where it is appropriate, invite your stepchild along when you are working or enjoying a hobby.
- Show interest in attending and supporting their hobbies and activities.
- Keep looking for common ground until you do find an activity the child would like to share with you. You may need to look outside of your usual interests and step away from your comfort zone to find an activity you enjoy sharing.
- Shared activities and interest don’t have to be elaborate; maybe you enjoy walking, running, cooking, baking, watching a TV show or shopping together.