Life as a stepparent can be rough, but it's also filled with so many unexpected moments of joy. Most of those moments involve your stepkids connecting with you in ways that are simple, yet still surprising since you're cast in the role of "outsider." Just to help that relationship (that can be fraught) along the right path, try these 15 smart stepparent moves.
1. Put their pictures in your home, at your office, and on
your computer. Include, if you have them, pictures of them before you knew
them, including baby pictures and first birthday parties. They’ll notice.
2. Love them. Love them with your entire being. Love them
like they are your very own children. This isn’t about you, this isn’t about
your relationship with their mom or their dad, this is about you and your
stepkids. Love them without inhibition.
3. Watch Disney movies with them and when the evil
stepmothers appear on the screen say things like, “See! I don’t even have a
dungeon to keep you in! We don’t even have stone floors for you to scrub on
your hands and knees!” Let them know you "get it."
4. When you talk to your husband about them, don’t say
“your kids.” If you’re not comfortable saying “my kids” or “our kids,” say “the
kids.” Pronouns make a world of difference in your attitude.
5. When they ask you to play, do it. When they ask you to
read them a story, read one. When they ask you to sit in the bathroom while
they play with naked Barbies and submarines in the tub—close the lid on the
toilet, put your phone away and have a seat. Then help them make a bubble beard.
6. Talk to them about family, making sure they know that
they are part of your family. If you’re going to Disney World, talk
about our family vacation. Mention it casually in conversation and they’ll grow up always knowing
that you all are a family, instinctively.
7. When you're at the grocery store if someone says, “Your
kids are so cute!” just say thank you and smile. They are pretty darn cute, no need to qualify your relationship.
If they don’t want you, don’t take it personally.
8. Go to their baseball games, dance recitals and high school graduations. Teach them how to parallel park and help them
study for Spanish finals. Hola! Donde está el baño? Just
be there for them, no matter what.
9. Be nice to their mom. I know. You read that all the
time and you hate hearing it. You wish someone would tell HER to be nice to
YOU. But this isn’t about her, it's about you and your stepkids. You don’t have to invite her in for coffee and pastry, but say
hello to her and ask her how she’s doing. Tell her that the kids had a great time
at the zoo on Saturday. Be nice. Let your stepkids see you two being friendly
to each other. Trust me, they’ll notice.
10. Love them. I don’t care what anyone says or how hard
it is or how stressful it is. Love them. They didn’t ask for you to be
in their life, and they didn’t get to make this choice. No matter how angry they
might be or what they might hear from their mom or dad or grandparents or
uncles or friends at school, you just love them. Unconditionally. Like they’re
11. Take an interest in their lives. Ask them what they want for breakfast. Learn what
their favorite cookies are. If they talk about playing with bubbles, make note
of it and buy them some for their birthday. Learn who they are, inside and out.
12. Listen to them. If they want to talk to you about a
bad day at school, pull up a chair and listen. If your stepdaughter wakes up in the
morning and says, “I had a crazy dream!” let her tell it to you, in detail. If they want to talk to
you about their mom or their dad or their siblings, listen. Care about
what they’re saying.
13. When they’re crying, comfort them. When they’re sick,
rub their backs and pour them more orange juice. If they fall off their bike,
offer your arms. If they’re going through their first heartbreak, remember how
much that sucked and offer your company with a box of tissues.
14. If they
don’t want you, don’t take it personally. Let it go. If they do want you, hold
them tight. Tell them everything will be okay. Let them sit with you as long as
they need. Don’t end your comforting until they say they’re okay.
15. Love them. Say I love you. Pray for them. Think
about them. Make decisions with them in the very front of your mind. Love them
like you’ve never loved another human being before. Don’t think about it. Don’t
analyze it. Just love them.
BONUS TIP: Don’t read any more of these lists. You don’t
need to hear anything negative or anything written by “experts.” Just love
them. Everything will be okay.