Schedule time alone with biological children to re-inforce your relationship.

Blended Families & Methods of Socialization

by Lillian Wade

It is important to socialize stepchildren into the family dynamic, act lovingly toward them, whether you feel like it or not, and have empathy for what they are going through, because they may have feelings of guilt, remorse or rejection. Blended families are becoming the norm, mainly because of the number of divorces and more children born out of wedlock. A 2010 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 42 percent of the more than 2600 participants said that they have a step relative, and 70 percent of those were very satisfied with the relationships. Feelings of obligation toward step family members lagged behind those for the biological family, but they still ranked above obligations toward a best friend.

1. Demonstrate Trust

Children in blended families need to know they can trust the stepparent to be fair. Develop rules and consequences for all children and be consistent with enforcement. For example, you can say to your stepchild, "The rules apply to both you and Bobby -- and if either of you breaks a rule -- you will each get the same consequence." This says to your stepchild that you will not play favorites with your biological son. Create harmony and a sense of belonging by committing to doing what is best for the entire family; consult your partner on major decisions and open the family rules up to discussion with all family members.

2. Find Common Ground

You may be unaware of your stepchild’s interests and hobbies. Find out what she likes and make a concerted effort to involve yourself with those interests. Try to foster a caring relationship by approaching your stepchild as a friend would -- with common interests -- and be patient. Sincerity is the wisest course; phoniness will only make things worse. Try saying something like, "I see you like to read. That's my favorite pastime, too. Maybe we could go to the bookstore together. Would you like that?" Finding the right balance is crucial to blend two families successfully. Since you cannot make your stepchild like you, be someone she can count on to be present in her life.

3. Confront Jealousy

Jealousy is a two-edged sword. Non-custodial, biological parents are jealous of the stepparent; stepchildren are jealous of the biological children; stepparents are jealous of continued relationship between biological parents, and so on. To avoid this predicament, each biological parent should have some time alone with his own children to reassure them they have not been displaced. You could say something like, "Sweetheart, I don't love your stepbrother any more or less than you. It's just different. I took some time to get to know him, but I want to do something with you. Let's go hiking together -- we haven't done that in a long time." Acknowledge the rightful place of the biological parent in the child’s life and respect their relationship, never making negative comments about the biological parent.

4. Encourage Bonding

Relationships between step, biological and half-siblings may cause many sleepless nights for parents. To traverse the rickety scales of these associations, parents need to strengthen their own relationship and agree on how they are going to parent the children. Schedule times when just the two of you can meet to discuss problems and solutions. Also, have some time alone where you focus on one another and agree not to mention family conflicts. Presenting a united front will give the children a feeling of security as well as help alleviate many disagreements, as they will often play one parent against the other.

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