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Why Bonding Is Important
Bonding is the process of forming a relationship based on a strong feeling of friendship, love, or shared beliefs and experiences. There are two key points to note when it comes to bonding with your significant other’s kids:
- Forming a relationship with another human being takes time.
- Strengthening that relationship to the point where you have mutual trust and understanding and where you each genuinely feel comfortable being your authentic self takes even more time.
Bonding with Your Stepchildren
The feelings kids have about their parents are complicated. If a child’s parents have separated or divorced, their feelings may become more complicated to understand. But empathy is key to forming any relationship, so trying to understand is critical to building the relationship.
You must try to see the child's perspective so that you can adjust your behavior appropriately. And it would be best if you accepted that the kids’ feelings won’t always be rational. They are children, and depending on their age and circumstance of their parents' separation, it can take kids as long as two or three years to adjust to the realities of their parents living separately.
Some kids feel tremendous sadness, anger, and betrayal, and others feel immense guilt about their parents' separation—as if they might have somehow caused the problem.
The kids’ reaction to your presence in their lives equally may run a gamut of emotions:
Your presence in their life may cause them to feel that there is even less chance their parents will reunite.
The child may feel like you are a threat to the reconciliation between their parents, or the child may believe you are trying to replace his or her mom or dad.
The child may feel guilty like he or she is betraying her mother or father by interacting with you.
No matter what the kids’ emotional response to your presence, you must have empathy for their emotions. This means respecting their wishes and following their lead on getting to know one another. If they show no interest in spending time with you or worse, express outright hostility, don’t take it personally. Let them be. If they are willing to interact with you, but only on a very superficial level, take it as a win.
This persistence is about the kids and the process they must go through to adjust to an incredibly monumental change in their life.
Your significant other’s kids have a mother and a father. Your role in their lives is something different. Allow the kids’ mother and father to be the primary parents. It would be best if you found a different role that meets both of your expectations.
How to Interact with Your Significant Other’s Child
- Always speak respectfully about the kids’ biological parent
- Never come between the kids and either of their biological parents
- Encourage the kids to spend time with both of their biological parents
- Ensure you are not monopolizing your significant other’s time and that he or she still has plenty of one-on-one time with his or her kids
- If you are at a recital for one of the kids, step back and allow the kid’s biological mother and father to congratulate and praise them before you step in
- If the children misbehave at home, let your significant other to hand out the discipline and do not question his or her methods in front of the kids
Take an Interest
Take an interest in the things that are important to your significant other’s kids. This does not
mean asking them how their day at school went and then barely listening to their answer. Actively listen to what they tell you and follow up on that information.
- If the child has a big test coming up at school that they are worried about, ask them if they need any assistance studying or with homework in the days leading up to the test.
- If the child has a significant performance or sports game in which they are participating, attend it.
- If the child enjoys playing tennis, and you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the game, ask him or her to teach you some strokes.
Be authentic in your interest. Please don’t be overly fake or enthusiastic about activities to get them to like you—they will notice that you are faking it. If you play video games with them to earn their attention only to stop playing with them because you don't enjoy it, the only thing you've taught them is that you aren't trustworthy. They may think that you are faking your interest in them too.
Bonding with your significant other's kids is not going to happen overnight. Don't put pressure on yourself or the kids for there to be an instant connection. Slow and steady build the relationship.
TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.