Connecting with your partner’s children can be extremely overwhelming for not only you, but for everyone else who is involved as well. It is important to remember that the idea of immediate love and bonding is not realistic for either party, especially if your partner is recently divorced. Studies have shown that it may take as long as two years for a child to recover from their parent’s divorce. While it may take some time to connect with your partner’s children, you are most likely to be successful at making that connection if you consider the following advice.
Make a Good First Impression
Everybody has heard the old saying about only getting one chance to make a first impression. While this holds true for nearly every occasion, it is especially important when meeting your partner’s children. However, instead of thinking about it as a single event, you should think about it as a series of first impressions.
The very first time you are introduced to the children should be brief. Lingering may make it awkward for everybody and you don’t want the children to feel as if they are being forced to like you. That is no bueno. Plus, the kids may need a little time to process what is happening. After that first brief meeting, gradually work your way in their lives by connecting with your partner’s children in fun ways, trying to transition your relationship from casual acquaintance to friendship. Customizable word puzzles, board games and other family-friendly activities where you can work together, and ultimately bond in a pressure-free atmosphere, go a long way to helping you build a solid foundation with your partner’s children.
You can’t force a square peg into a round hole, so don’t try. Divorce is traumatic for children and they may not be ready to welcome you into their world just yet. Give them time to adjust to their new normal — a blended family — and let the child dictate the relationship’s pace. They will move the relationship forward when they are ready, which helps to give them a feeling of control and prevents you from being emotionally rejected. Eventually you will find common ground and the mutual respect that is so important to forming a new relationship.
Give them Space
Research shows that parents who remarry, especially non-custodial fathers, tend to decrease their visitation time with their children during the first year of their second marriage. This often leads children to feel abandoned and/ or erodes their sense of self worth. It’s important that children get alone time with their biological parents. Therefore, as the newcomer, you should step aside once in a while so your partner can spend quality time with their offspring. Not only will this strengthen your partner’s bonds with their children, it will help keep the child for resenting you, which is bound to happen if the children believes their time with their parent is being stolen by you.
For most families, running a successful blended family won’t be as harmonious as the Brady Bunch — and you probably won’t have your own Alice to help smooth out family problems as they arise. It is going to take time to figure out how to make it all work. A little patience and understanding will go a long way to bringing your new family together. Give it time. It will work.