Raising biological children is challenging enough, but when you become a stepfather, forming relationships can be much more difficult. When you first enter your stepdaughter’s life, you can expect a ‘honeymoon’ period, before she may ultimately become distant. This is because the reality of your presence in her life has finally started to settle in. She may not understand why her mother has found a replacement for her father, and may blame you for the major changes she will have to endure. She will need some time, sometimes a lot of time, to come to the realization that you are there to stay. There are many things that a stepfather can do to facilitate the process.
Move at Her Pace
Be patient and allow the relationship to move at your stepdaughter’s own pace. It can be difficult forming relationships with new stepparents and stepsiblings. Along with that, come the challenges of understanding and dealing with differences in personalities. Children can often form judgments without properly getting to know you first.
All family members are likely to have issues adjusting to family changes, and might feel jealous, insecure, or lonely. As time moves on, she will want to involve you more as a father figure in her life. Whether it be asking for your help with homework, or lunch money for school. It’s important to let her know that you do not want to replace her father. She will respect you for that.
Living Day to Day
New changes in your stepdaughter’s life can take some time getting used to. Children respond to habits and routine, including small everyday things such as household chores or the foods they eat. Try not to change things in her life too much, and instead, spend time doing things she enjoys. Involve yourself by attending clubs or her sporting events to show her that you’re willing to make an effort. Invite your stepdaughter to also participate in your own activities.
Be very cautious when easing into discipline. Any attempt to come into your stepdaughter’s home and enforce rules can lead to resentment. This can put added stress on the relationship with both your stepdaughter and new partner. Be sensitive when dealing with territorial subjects, and encourage her rather than becoming negative. Respect the mother’s disciplinary regimens, and talk to her privacy about your concerns, never in front of your stepdaughter.
Major family changes, like having more children, can bring about a range of emotions from your stepdaughter. It’s important to do your best to maintain a relationship with your stepdaughter during these chaotic times. Do as much as you can to involve her in the pregnancy, so she does not feel left out. Have her help pick out baby clothes, decorate the nursery, or choose baby names.
When the new baby arrives, you may have a tendency to pay more attention to the new addition. Your stepdaughter may become concerned that you will be more attached to your biological child than to her. During this time, it’s important for her to understand that you will continue to value her relationship. Make every effort to make her feel like an equal in the family.
Raising a stepdaughter can be highly difficult, and may take years before you are truly accepted as a father figure in her life. By being understanding and sensitive to her needs, you can make the transition easier. With time and commitment, you can build an everlasting bond with your stepchild.