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Samantha and Josh met during a yoga class and took an instant liking towards each other. He was a history professor and she worked in a bank. Samantha was fascinated with his smartness, honesty and his down-to-earth attitude which is extremely rare in a man. They were both intelligent, had great jobs and had each other. However, Samantha was always troubled by a small detail about Josh's life; he was a single father. She had met his son and the meeting was a little awkward because he was not very comfortable around her. She had no problems with the child and wanted to raise him with love and affection; but the child was a closed book and it was impossible to communicate with him. She was pretty serious about Josh and wanted to take the relationship to the next level, but she was also concerned about being a stepmother to a 6-year old. She wanted to live with the man she loved but she wasn't sure about his child.
Do any of you find this situation familiar? Starting a relationship or moving in with a single parent comes with a responsibility, and that responsibility is your partner's child. When you are in a relationship with a single parent, it is essential that you know and understand that the kid sees you as a new parent. The kid is as scared of you as you are of him. It is quite possible that you may be pictured as an enemy who is trying to replace a parent. What to do now? You're in for a task that you've never done before; being friends with a child and make him/her understand that you are not replacing his mother or father. The kid might be a little unfriendly in the beginning but it is important to understand that he/she was also a part of the separation just as the mother and father were. This confusion can arouse a lot of issues between you and the child, but before the situation gets out of your hand, some advice on the matter will help.
Be Empathetic
It is pretty important to be empathic towards the child and understand the trauma that he/she is going through. Even if the child is unresponsive or brash with you in the beginning, don't get angry. Instead try putting yourself in his/her shoes and think what you would have done. The kid has faced a harsh reality of life at a young age and is traumatized by the experience. Don't try to be a parent from the start, try being a friend first; it will help a lot.
Don't Lose Hope
Dealing with the child of a single parent is not easy. You need to have a lot of patience and a positive attitude. You need to understand that the stepchild will have a sense of resentment towards anyone who is trying to take the place of the missing parent. When single parents remarry or start dating, kids find it difficult to accept that their parents will never reunite (in case of a divorce or separation). They start feeling like outsiders and believe that the new partner will replace their biological parent. As an adult it is important to understand the feelings of such children.
Be Realistic
Don't be under the impression that the child will accept you with open arms as soon as you step in; building a relationship takes time. Make sure you understand what his/her likes and dislikes are and show that you care about him. Build a relationship with the kid on trust, love, and respect.
Handling Teenagers
If the situation involves dealing with teenage stepchildren, then I suggest you make your move very cautiously. Teens are rebellious in nature and they often misconstrue good advice as interference. The best way to handle them is to let the biological parent take the lead and settle the matter, but if the behavior is uncalled-for, step up and take charge. Talk with the teen about the situation and try to understand what he thinks.
Step Back
If the biological mother and father are deeply involved with the kids even after the separation, it is advisable to allow both parents to work out any difficulty regarding their kids. Even though you are genuinely concerned, it can be seen as interference by the kid and the divorced parent.
To form a strong bond with a stepchild, it is important to analyze the child's behavior and try to empathize. Don't hold yourself responsible for the child's rash behavior, some kids take more time to adjust with a new person in their life. Don't try to change yourself so that they can like you, instead try to work on common grounds and know more about each other. This way the relationship will progress naturally and take its course.