It’s not unusual for step children to be forced to live together and expected to play happily families, but that happy ever after doesn’t always come true. We look at some tips to help step children get on and find their common ground.
Nurturing the bonding process
Aside from step siblings considering themselves to be chalk and cheese, there may be a lot of unresolved emotions from the new relationship, along with feelings of jealousy and competitiveness that will end up affecting the whole family.
Sitting down together as a family can be more important than you may think when it comes to giving children the chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting. Having that time where there are no interruptions can be an important part of the bonding process.
Read our tips for new step parents
Accepting their differences
Step children aren’t necessarily different to any other siblings, the difference is their different backgrounds and beliefs can be harder to live with without a mutual respect and understanding from the beginning.
“Things moved very quickly with my new partner and it was only a year or so after we met that we moved in together. Our girls got on well initially, but the cracks soon started to appear,” says Michael, 55. “We’ve always been a very tactile family; lots of kissing and hugging, but her girls weren’t brought up like that. My daughters took it very personally, but slowly they are starting to understand that this is just their way.
“We don’t force them to spend time together if they don’t want to, but at the same time we do encourage them to support each other at school or with their hobbies. There is often rivalry, but I try and spend time with each of them on their own. It’s a tricky balance to get right, but we’re getting there.”
Dealing with conflicts
Conflicts at home can take over and before you know it life becomes all about the children. “It’s important not to let this interfere with your own relationship,” says counsellor and psychotherapist Chrissie Bramwell. “It’s all about negotiation and communication and this can be a real challenge, especially when children are so different. There may be times when you want to get in the middle of it, but it’s important to try not to hand things over to their parent and instead present a united front.”
Setting an example
You can’t force children to get on and they may never feel “old enough” to deal with a new person taking on the role of parent, whether it comes after a bereavement or separation. Having a discussion about how you want to parent and relaying that back to the children means there will be fewer surprises down the line. It’s also important that children don’t lose one-on-one time with their maternal parent.
Fighting is natural, but it’s all about parenting together and coming from the same page. If you are modelling a relaxed and open environment the children will start to feel relaxed themselves and the kids will adopt what the parent’s attitudes are.
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