Step Parenting’s Answer – Develop the Friendship

There’s one thing we see in families more and more these days. Actually, it’s been around for most of the last half century, so it’s quite the norm – it is blended families. I don’t think there is one step parent, or step son or step daughter out there that thinks it’s a perfect situation. The reality is it’s far from perfect and requires quite a bit of work and commitment to get it to work, and then even more work to keep it going.

So, when you find yourself in the situation of being a step parent, what’s going to work in building a relationship with your partner’s children? Well, that depends on a number of factors. This is not the subject of this article – dealing with all those many factors.

I would like to share with you one thing I learned recently that makes a whole deal of sense and actually works.

It involves the step parent not “becoming” Mum or Dad to the step son or daughter, but simply being their friend; being someone who is not intrusive, and who is able to nurture and build upon trust, creating an environment of mutual respect – this is friendship, in one short word.

Some might say, “How can I be a friend with a kid, or a teenager?” For some, this doesn’t compute. I want to suggest that if you want success in your relationship with your partner, then investing positive time and effort into their children is a very good idea. Befriending them is a low-risk and sure-fire way of achieving success. Kids can smell a liar from a mile off, so do it in the most genuine, sincere and loving way you can. Put a lot of thought and consideration into it, and seek counsel and support from your partner.

Love can’t be forced. You cannot just instantly “love” them; it doesn’t work like that. You can’t expect too much from yourself as far as having an intrinsic love toward your step child; and your partner can’t either expect too much either. It would be downright unfair to expect a child or teen to suddenly love a step parent. This sort of love takes years. Possibly, if you’ve come into the relationship early enough in your step child’s life, say when they were still an infant or toddler (below school age), you might have had the history and the time to develop such a love.

One day at a time, work on gaining their trust and respect. This doesn’t make you inferior to them; it makes you their ally and advocate, someone they can rely upon in their hour of need. Gaining their trust and respect also means you diffuse any issue they might possibly have with you and they’ll see you as no threat. If you love your step child’s mum or dad, the only other barrier is how you treat the child themself or one of their siblings. Trust and respect go a long way in building loving relationships. Trust and respect are key risk management tools for relationships. Remember, trust and respect don’t work without love.

Some short tips:

  • Don’t pressure your step child to call you “Mum” or “Dad”;
  • Offer the friendship unconditionally, after all love is unconditional;
  • Be patient and forgive well and whenever required. It starts with you. You can model the right attitude and behaviour;
  • Find ways you can spend time and ways you can help them, whether that be playing sport with them, chatting, or assisting with homework.
  • Are you putting the sort of time, effort and commitment in to building a loving relationship with your step child? Are you at peace that you’re doing all you can to get you both there? It’s not too late if the answer is ‘no’ to both these questions. When you get it wrong, courageously say sorry and start over.

    Lastly, it’s so important to support your partner in the parenting task of their children. Though discipline for the children should be your partner’s responsibility (as the intrinsically trusted parent), you can be a listening ear, and quiet supporter. By support I mean, help them to do their job as a sole parent. At times this means putting your own needs on the backburner.

    Being a friend to a child is knowing the blessing of God.

    © Steve J. Wickham, 2008. All rights reserved Worldwide.