It’s that all-important first step: forming a bond with a stepchild. Your stepchild might be three weeks old, or forty; they might love you on sight, or hate you for years – each case is different, and takes its own time.

Ways to connect

Help with every day care. For babies, you could change nappies, give feeds or get up in the night.
Join in play – initiate games, comment or ask questions .Focus on a shared activity. Baking, shopping or gardening together is a great way to appreciate your stepchild’s skills while allowing a bond to develop in its own time. Ice-skating or bowling with a teenager may seem daunting, but if you look silly doing it, this can break the ice.

If your stepchild seems hostile, it can help to talk with them about the absent parent, or encourage them to think of you as a friend rather than a parental figure. No matter how hostile your stepchild is, don’t give up on ever forging a bond. Just keep being civil and friendly, and make sure your partner fully supports your efforts to keep the peace.

You’re Not My Mum

Your relationship with the absent parent – your partner’s ex – can potentially make or break your relationship with your stepchild, so try to encourage a civil relationship. This is often easier said than done, as unfortunately many stepparents have to deal with hostility from the absent parent. The best thing to do in this case is to remain calm as much as possible. Never badmouth the absent parent in front of their child, no matter what they have done. Doing so will only distress your stepchild as they try to choose between their parents, and is likely to damage your relationship with your stepchild in the long run.

Never be tempted to side with a stepchild against your partner. Even if this might improve your relationship with the child in the short term, it will damage your partner’s authority as a parent and make for ineffective discipline at other times – not to mention the effect it could have on your relationship. Sometimes you may feel that a child’s behaviour is better addressed by talking things through than discipline. In this case, there is no harm in providing a listening ear, but don’t encourage badmouthing of either parent.

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