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How to Cope When You Don't Get Along With Your Stepchildren

by Shelley Frost

You become an instant parent when you say, "I do," but that doesn't mean you instantly become a functional family. Stepchildren and stepparents face a challenging transition for a variety of reasons. The child may resent you or blame you for breaking up his parents. You may find his behavior unacceptable or have difficulty bonding. No matter what the source of the tension, you as the adult have the power to work on the issues to increase the peace of family life.

Pinpoint the behaviors and situations that cause tension between you and your stepchild. Get specific about the source instead of placing general blame, such as saying the stepchild always misbehaves. For example, you might realize he makes snide remarks to you, always breaks curfew or plays you against your spouse.

Examine your own role in the difficult relationship. If you have biological children, watch your behaviors to see if you treat them differently. Your attitude and your expectations for your stepchild play a role in the relationship. If you expect him to get in trouble, you may perpetuate that behavior.

Discuss the strained relationship with your spouse. Don't ask him to choose sides. Instead, work on a plan to create a united front with the children. Discuss specific issues that need addressed. You might say, "We need to come up with consistent house rules and consequences for breaking them. We particularly need to address the curfew issue. We need to be on the same page so the kids know what to expect."

Spend time with your spouse to strengthen your marriage. The tensions with your stepchild can lead to problems in the marriage. Dedicating time to building your relationship makes you a stronger couple who can better handle problems with the kids.

Focus on your stepchild's needs, even if your feelings toward him are negative at the time. He needs a sense of security, acceptance and encouragement. He may push or resist, but building a safe and caring environment may help you eventually build a better relationship with your stepchild.

Spend time as a family to find some common ground with your stepchild. Start your own blended family traditions to create a sense of unity, but don't force the new traditions onto your stepchild. Simple activities, such as a movie night or a yearly camping trip, ease you into family traditions with your stepchild.

Look for positive characteristics in your stepchild to change your own attitude about him. Those traits can help you find common ground that helps build the bond with your stepchild. For example, you might notice his doodles. Compliment him on his drawing skills. If you enjoy art, you might suggest drawing together. It may not come naturally, but the effort to connect can improve the relationship with your stepchild.

Take time for yourself to help reduce stress you feel from the difficult situation. Getting out of the house to enjoy your hobbies or time with your friends can improve your outlook. When your overall mental state is improved, you are better able to handle the difficult stepparenting situations.

Tip

  • Your stepchild may take time to accept your role in his life. While some kids adjust quickly, others take months or even years. Being consistent and patient is key when dealing with your stepchild.

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