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How to Bond with Your Significant Other's Kids

Tips for developing bonds with your partner’s kids.

Why is bonding important?

Bonding is the process of forming a relationship based on a strong feeling of friendship, love, or shared beliefs and experiences. While bonding is a natural occurrence between parents and their children, it can take extra effort for people to bond with their partner's kids. Even though it isn't necessary, developing and strengthening bonds can be beneficial, especially if you eventually become a stepparent to your partner's children.

There are two key points to note when it comes to bonding with your significant other's kids:

  1. Forming a relationship with another person takes time.
  2. Strengthening that relationship to the point where you have mutual trust and feel genuinely comfortable being your authentic self takes even more time.

How can I bond with my partner's kids?

If a child’s parents have separated or divorced, their feelings may become more complicated to understand

Show them empathy

The feelings kids have about their parents being separated can be complicated. If a child's parents have separated or divorced, their feelings may become more complex to understand. Because empathy is vital in forming any relationship, trying to understand their feelings and give them space as needed is critical to building the relationship.

Regardless of how your partner's children behave, you must try to see the child's perspective and adjust your behavior appropriately. Even if you do everything right, there's a good chance that the kids' feelings won't always be rational. They are children, and it can take kids several years to adjust to the realities of their parents living separately depending on their age and the circumstances of the separation. Some kids feel tremendous sadness, anger, and betrayal, while others may feel responsible.

The kids' reaction to your presence in their lives may involve various negative emotions:

  • Grief - Your presence in their life may cause them to realize the permanence of the separation and feel there's even less chance their parents will reunite.
  • Anger - The child may feel like you threaten any chance of some form of reconciliation between their parents, or the child may believe you are trying to replace his or her mom or dad.
  • Guilt - The child may feel like they are betraying their other parent by interacting with you, regardless of whether you impacted their separation.
Allow the kids’ mother and father to be the primary parents

No matter the kids' emotional response to your presence, you must empathize with them. The best way to be empathetic and supportive is by following their lead when getting to know one another. Don't take it personally if they show no interest in spending time with you or express disdain about being around you. If they are willing to interact with you, but only superficially, take it as a win. This persistence helps kids by giving them the space needed to adjust to an incredibly monumental change in their lives.

Recognize your role

Your significant other's kids have a mother and a father. While you may be a partner to one of their parents, your role in their lives is different. Even if you feel it's appropriate at a specific moment, you should avoid acting as either of the child's parents would. Finding a different role that meets your expectations, doesn't overstep either parent's role, and fits within the child's comfort levels would be best.

When interacting with your significant other's kids, some healthy boundaries can include:

  • Always speak respectfully about their biological parent.
  • Never come between the kids and either of their parents.
  • Encourage the kids to spend time with both of their biological parents.
  • Ensure you are not monopolizing your significant other's time or impacting their one-on-one time with their kids.
  • If you are at a special event for one of the kids, give their parents room to congratulate and praise them before you get involved.
  • If the children misbehave at home, let your significant other manage discipline without your participation.
Take an interest in the things that are important to your significant other’s kids

Value their interests

Take an interest in the things that matter to your significant other's kids. Valuing their interests means doing more than asking them how their school day went and barely listening to their answer. Listen to what they tell you and follow up on that information to have meaningful conversations.

If a child has a big test coming up at school that they're worried about, ask them if they need any assistance with studying or completing homework in the days leading up to the test. If they have a significant performance or sports game in which they are participating, attend it and cheer for them. Whatever you do, be authentic in your interest. If you’re not interested, at least be supportive and understanding.

Bonding with your significant other's kids will take a while, but slow and steady progress is still progress. Don't put pressure on yourself or the kids for there to be an instant connection. Let your bond with them develop genuinely at whatever pace feels natural.

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