25 October 2013

Creating a bond as a step-parent

Being a step-parent is hard. Children are conditioned from a young age that step-parents are cruel and mean, thanks Disney. So when you become one, the odds are already stacked against you. And add to it that there has been no bond or attachment made between you and your step-children as there is typically with children you gave birth to, so parenting step-children can be very difficult.

Plus, let’s be honest, if you have your own biological kids, the only reason why they are still living is because you deeply love them and have bonded with them. If anyone else’s children were crawling into your bed and kicking you throughout the night, their existence may be very short.

With step-children, there isn’t that same connection. Therefore, you have probably taken other measures to protect them from you on stressful days. Don’t get me wrong, a bond can be formed with step-children that can be strong.

Often step-children have different interest and likes than their step-parents, which can make it hard for step-parents to engage in an activity with the child. However, children are usually interested in new activities and may be willing to engage with you on an activity.

Think of it like parallel play, not doing something together, but side by side. Doing something you like beside someone can be the start of a bond, as you are associating or conditioning yourself with a positive feeling around that step-child.

To do this, make an exhaustive list of things that you like doing, from arts and crafts, to sports, to walking, and so on. After you have completed your list, select an activity or two that you can do parallel, again emphasis on the parallel, with your step-child for 5-15 minutes a week. Start small. This task can be daunting and overwhelming. Do this for a couple of weeks, and then add 5-10 minutes each week.

Again it’s parallel play, but over time it may morph into something else, such as doing something together. Allow it to grow.

A bond will not instantly be formed. If you are a mom, you developed a bond with your biological children for nine months while they grew inside of you, and then you have been with them since. For men you had the time since your child was born to love them and watch them grow. It has been years of bonding to your biological children. So it can be expected that it may take just as long for you to form a bond with a step-child.

Being a step-parent is a challenging role, but you can do it, one day at a time, for a few minutes a week.