Establish a bond with your partner's children while keeping boundaries intact.
Partnering with a man who has children from a previous relationship can be challenging, but it can also be a great perk. Whether it’s the former or the latter can be up to you.
Toronto-based mom, stepmom and entrepreneur, Sarah Patterson started Social Stepmom, a unique interactive networking platform for the world's stepmom sisterhood. She and her husband have two daughters together, and she's also a stepmom to her husband’s five other children from two previous relationships.
Here, Sarah shares her tips on how to bond and build a relationship with his children:
1. Know your role.
Knowing your role as a stepmom can help you determine what your interaction with your stepchild should be like. Every step-family situation is different, and as a result, roles for stepmoms can be different. Are you dad's friend, partner, girlfriend, wife? Once you know your role, you'll be able to better identify your responsibilities.
2. Share interests.
Take time to understand his children's passions. If you have a natural interest in a similar area, your energy and enthusiasm will resonate with your stepchild. If possible, choose an interest that neither your stepchild’s mother nor father is focused on, to avoid potential conflict. Hobbies could be as simple as baking cookies, going to the movies together, building a stamp collection, riding a bike or sharing a special treat. There’s always something that you can find that can be a common denominator between you and your stepchild.
3. Listen and know how to respond.
Listening can be one of the hardest things for a stepmom, particularly when you're presented with something you don't want to hear. Statements like "Where is my Mommy?" "I want my Mommy?" "You are not my Mommy!" are common, and it's important to know how to respond in the best way. You know you're not the child's mother, nor are you trying to replace her. Simply validate your stepchild's feelings and let them know their feelings matter to settle the situation.
4. Build your own family traditions.
Be creative and conceptualize your own ideas for family fun that doesn't impede on the ones already set. Start with a small event such as pizza night or game night on the same day every week or month. This mini-tradition will assist in forming bonds as well as excitement as the kids will look forward to arriving at your home. Start modestly, and let the tradition develop into whatever direction it takes, and be sure to welcome input from your stepchild.
5. Spend time together.
It may not be easy to spend one-on-one time with his kids, and that's ok. Try to break for a little downtime with each kid when possible. Communicate with his kids about when it's family time and when you'd like some one-on-one time. Let the kids know you're delighted to have set out time alone with them — if they don't feel like you want to spend time with them, they may grow resentment towards you. Just as important is letting the kids spend time alone with their dad. If they feel you are supportive of their one-on-one time, they're less likely to feel you have replaced their mother or are preventing their dad from spending more time with them.