Health&Wellness Magazine May 2016 - Page 44

44 & May 2016 | Read this issue and more at | Like us @healthykentucky PARENTING FOR WELLNESS Stepparenting: Building Authentic Relationships Integration of families can take a while, so be patient By Sarah Brokamp, Staff Writer As part of a generation where divorced families are more than common, many of my friends and family members have firsthand experience with parents splitting up and new ones arriving. For example, my uncle after divorcing saw his small family of three grow to a family of seven. It was a very exciting yet stressful time. He had only two daughters, and he is very close to both of them. Then he suddenly had four daughters and a son. The situation was overwhelming for everyone involved. There were new routines to follow and different standards of communication to adjust to, and quality time now had to be split seven ways. Everyone experienced changes and discomfort. My uncle and his new wife both wanted to show the new members of their family as much love as possible and make the transition a calm one, but that is easier said than done. When you are a stepparent, the first thing you look for in your stepchild/children is acceptance and approval. You want them to be comfortable around you but you may also be desperate for them to love you. But that does not often happen immediately. You are a stranger to them. They are still learning how you discipline and are discerning your expectations of them. They may be hesitant to come to you at first. They may be dependent on just their biological parent and not you. Do not worry; their dependency and love will come with time. As you wait, try to make the transition smooth. Make suggestions for one-on-one time with your stepchildren, but do not force it. Offer to take them to school or out to lunch. You and your stepchild already share something special: the love for and of your spouse. If they decline, don’t assume you are doing something wrong. They are still getting used to having you as a constant member of their family. If you find yourself becoming angry or frustrated because the relationship between you and your stepchild is not blossoming, realize the stepchild can sense these feelings. This adds even more stress and pressure to the situation and it can set the relationship back even further. The authentic relationship you want from your new family members does not happen overnight. Integration of the family usually takes a long time, sometimes a couple of years or more. When it happens, it will feel natural, but you will have to keep working on it. The most important part about building a solid stepparent and stepchild relationship is not to give up even when it looks as though it is going nowhere. Keep offering one- on-one time with the child and make sure communication remains open. Stepparenting is not a one-person job. Make sure your spouse is aware of your parenting style. As husband and wife, you’ll need to make accommodations for your different methods of discipline. Having agreed-upon parenting actions, consequences and methods makes the family feel more united. When mother and father are on the