It's not always easy to build a bond with your step children but it's not impossible. Thanks Chrissy for these tips and the heartfelt post!
First remember, they are not yours. Second, accept the reality that a bond may never take place. Finally, you could love them with all of your heart and soul, sacrifice daily, hourly, minute to minute for them – but at the end of every day and the beginning of the next, they already have two parents. You may be the step parent, but you can over time build upon your relationship(s) using these tips.
1. Let Go of the Guilt
The reality is that they are not your children and as such sometimes that «bond» people speak of may simply not form. This does not mean you don’t love them, or dont want to be there for them, or that they don’t love you in return. Let go of the guilt and you may actually enjoy having that relationship vs. being caught up with your own emotions.
2. Focus on the Time You Have Together
Although a bond may not exist now (or ever) or it’s a fragment of what you thought it could (and should) be, keep your focus on the time you two spend together. Just as you would with your own child, one on one time needs to be a priority. This does not have to be hours on end, cost a fortune, or take even a great deal of effort. Realistically this could be cooking together, playing a board game, or reading together, playing catch or putting on a play, going to get a haircut or even grocery shopping. Focus at least some time one on one and it can only strengthen your relationship.
3. Take an Interest in Their Interests
The notion that you will both enjoy the same interests is a lie and needs to be thrown out of the thinking lineup asap. However, ask questions, listen, be involved – the more they feel you show interest in their world, the more they are likely to open up in your world.
4. Stop Playing the Blame Game
If your stepchild is like mine, they could come from a very broken household when away from yours. That place could be very toxic and in turn shape their personalities and form opinions about yours. My step daughter to be explains to me she is not allowed to love me in one breath, then will whisper, «but I do …». At first I wanted to blame her other environment, or anything that made logical sense. But now, I’ve learned to accept I cannot control other aspects of her life – but I can ensure as long as she is in our home, she will feel love from me.
5. Do NOT Let Them Have Control
As a step parent, you have to remember to not let your step child take control. When a simple matter such as «time to turn off the TV» turns into a negotiation battle ground, you must remember to assert your dominance, without of course scaring the child. Find the middle ground between being a disciplinarian and a doormat.
6. Open Communication with Your Partner
If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve said «turn off the TV» and it turns nasty with a «no, I don’t want to» instead, make sure you have already established strong communication with your partner so you know what to do in situations such as these. If the child sees that their parent, your partner, is agreeing with you and standing with you, they are less likely to rage on in the battleground and concede.
7. Be Aware of Your Feelings
If you are like me, when my step daughter to be ignores me or doesn't say I love you in return, it stings. But remember that they are just being a child and not being malicious. Use that open line of communication with your partner to vent, and then put this behind you – this may be a daily occurrence, but be aware of your feelings, share them, but try to not show how deeply you can be hurt to your step children. Reason #5 comes into play here – do not let them have control. It’s perfectly acceptable to tell them, «When you ignore me my feelings are hurt» but it is not okay to throw a crying fit, and let them see just how much it hurts you. Sadly, sometimes kids will take this and run with it.
8. Just Be You
Don’t try to be someone you are not. Don’t overcompensate or try to buy the love and affection with gifts and extravagance. Just be yourself and show your genuine love and compassion for that child and eventually, even if it's 20 years from now, they will at the very least love you, and that is a bond no matter how you try to dispute it.
The only way to build a bond is through time. For some there are so many environmental (and genetic) influence that it takes time to overcome. The solution is to stay committed to the goal of being there for that child. Showing love, showing empathy, showing concerning in the best way to show them you love them for being who they are, and do not want to replace their parent, but do want to be indeed a part of their family.