Q: What’s the best way for a stepparent to form strong bonds with a stepchild? I recently married a wonderful man. He’s kind, but firm, with my three children. Unfortunately, my preschool-age son has had a hard time warming up to him.
A: Try to view the situation through your pre-schooler’s eyes. A new man has suddenly moved in, taking up a lot of his mother’s time and attention that once belonged to him. To make things worse, she’s actually been seen kissing and hugging this guy – yuk! And to top it all off, he’s now telling him what to do and punishing him when he misbehaves.
The problem can be even more challenging if there hasn’t been consistency in setting limits with your children. It’s not uncommon for tired and busy single mums to be somewhat lenient with inappropriate behaviour. If your new husband is a firm disciplinarian, your son probably isn’t going to like it.
Encourage your husband to spend lots of special one-on-one time with your son. Sincere demonstrations of warmth and love are critical for your son right now. We’d also suggest that he go out of his way to praise your boy when he behaves well instead of simply punishing him when he acts up. In other words, he needs to make an intentional effort to “catch him being good.” At the same time, you may want to complement what he’s doing by firming up your own disciplinary techniques. Don’t put your husband in the position of having to play the “bad cop” all the time. Do what you can to take up some of the slack and give him a chance to appear in a more positive light.
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