All types of families take work, mindfulness, and a commitment to make relationships better every day. It’s so important for parents to have a realistic expectation regarding the transition of one family dynamic into another. Building loving relationships takes time – it is certainly a marathon and not a sprint. So start pacing yourself, have patience, and understand that their acceptance of you might not be on your time frame. This will help you to de-personalize any rejection you believe you are feeling.
At first, a child’s longing to remain in contact with the biological parent that doesn’t live with them will take priority over building a relationship with you. It will require time for them to find a balance and feel reassured that they have gained more security in the space that they are in now. Just like adults, children do not have the capacity to deal with too many issues all at once. A child’s loyalty to their biological parent can, in the beginning, interfere with their acceptance of you. So here are some things to try.
- Encourage contact with their parents. Never criticize their biological parents, as it will sabotage your child’s perception of you.
- Don’t present yourself as their “mother” or “father” because you are not. See yourself as the caring adult you are. With older children in their late teens, they will learn to respect you as a confidante and valued person in their family circle. For much younger children, they will see you as the loving, caring adult who looks after them every day.
- Let the children set the pace in which your relationship with them evolves. Don’t force it but at the same time don’t stop doing the things that a loving, concerned parent would do.
- Have fun experiences with them so that they see you on many different levels. You can relax and enjoy things while still being firm and responsible. This will increase your connection over time. Take an interest in what they are doing and be a part of that. Monitor their activities and offer assistance where you can. Even if they don’t want your help they will recognize that you have taken notice.
- For older children who do not live in the home, send them texts that don’t necessary need to be reciprocated. A simple “Hope your week is going well” or “Hi, just thinking of you. Love you” can go a long way.
- Last but not least, get involved with extended family activities. It allows the children to see you amongst the other family members. And, like we have always said, be the first to talk about your own family experiences. When you can be open it invites others to be the same with you.
Again, building loving relationships takes time and the challenges are very real. Be persistent, the process will not happen overnight. Keep working at it and you’ll see that the results of your positive parenting will be worth it.