Form Step Parent Bond with Child

Updated on November 13, 2008
L.R. asks from Seminole, FL
10 answers

I met my husband 3 years ago and he was a single parent to Jeffrey who was 5 at the time. My husband was quickly introduced to single parenthood when Jeffrey's mom passed away from breast cancer. So when I met them there were not alot of boundries, they ate at different times and Jeffrey spent alot of time in his room alone watching tv. So needless to say when I knew I was around for the long haul alot had to change. So before I could work on my bond with little Jeffrey, I quickly was forced into the discipliner, the one who changed his whole routine ( the better to me but of course not to him ) and the rule setter. So here we are 3 years later and I thought we had a good mother-son connection until my first born came along and I feel the way a bond should be. I really want that with my stepson and do not want him to ever feel less loved. I just can't seem to get away from the role I was put into. I have tried asking my husband to take over as the disciplinarian( is that a word ) but find myself jumping in. Would love some advice from those in my shoes or even outsiders who have some words of wisdom. How do I build a stronger bond with my stepson? Thanks everyone

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answers from Fort Myers on

OK, so this might not be a good solution and I might get some flack for it but Have you tried praying for a better relationship with him? I had a few Bible studies a few years back with a woman that was widowed and remarried a widower. They had 8 kids total in the house (3 from his 1st, 2 from hers and 2 together). Needless to say, crazy home life. Anyway, she mentioned once that she had a better relationship with his kids than any she had given birth to and she chalked it up to praying for a better relationship with them and not praying for a better relationship wit her own.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Hi L.,

First of all, I just want to say that I think it is wonderful that you desire a closer bond with your stepson! Poor thing has been through a lot and my heart goes out to him. Now that you've had your baby, you understand the bond Jeffrey had with his mom. With her passing, there is probably a huge hole in his soul that he might not have ever dealt with?? Whether he has told anyone or not, he must miss her and that special bond they shared.

I have an 8 yr old son and sometimes he likes to be independent and stand-offish, but most of the time he truly wants affection from his parents. I have a few suggestions for you ... these have helped me have a close relationship with my sons:

Read 'Have a New Kid By Friday' by Dr Kevin Leman and have your husband read it, too. Discipline for your 8 yr old should be based on natural consequences. Changing your techniques will change your son's behavior drastically. (I also liked '1-2-3 Magic' by Dr Thomas Phelan.) You don't have to feel like you are always disciplining your son! It becomes loving guidance & very simple when you use the right strategy. So much nicer for everyone!

I agree with Mama Bear about spending 1 on 1 quality time with him each week. Just the two of you. Call them "Dates" and do something fun with him. You need to do something that HE likes - take him someplace that he would like to go and then someplace quiet afterwards to have an ice cream or something -- talk and connect thru the experience that you just shared. Treat him like he is your special friend during these outings. Make it fun and hold his hand (if he'll let you), hang on every word -- but don't be fake! Start with an hour outing and then a 1/2 hour talk time - don't make it an all day thing. It should be enjoyable for both of you; something that you both look forward to & something that can fit into your schedule every week. Thank him for spending special time with you and tell him that you can't wait to do it again next week. After a few dates, ask if he would like to take you on a date. Take him to a pottery painting place. (Both of my sons LOVED this experience and we have very special serving dishes & nic nacks that remind us of those dates.)

Everyday play a game called High & Low - take 5 minutes when he gets home from school and ask him what the High point of the day was ... listen carefully and draw out more info by asking lots of questions ... then ask him what the Low point of the day was and do the same thing. Then ask him if he wants to know your High/Low. (Sometimes he will, sometimes he won't but don't take it personally!) I always tell him my low first, (be very brief - don't unload about your day on him!!) then I say that I have 2 Highs -- one of them being "when you came home from school, becaused I missed you!" and we end in a bear hug and a cascade of kisses. (We play High/Low again at the dinner table when daddy is home. His 2nd High is when he came home to his family - the boys love that, too.)

Read together EVERY night. Get a book that he likes and read out loud together. (Preferably when snuggled up together on his bed or on the couch.) He reads one page, you read one page, etc - then talk about the chapter. My husband and I take turns - each with 1 child, then we switch the next night. Not only does it help with literacy, it opens up conversations with them that you normally wouldn't have.

Don't let an unpleasant moment ruin the whole day. There will be times of struggle and challenge, but always make sure that he knows you love him deeply and forever. The bond will grow a little deeper each day.

Good Luck and God Bless!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

First, try not to think of or treat the boy as a "step-son". You are his mother and he is your son. Yes, there was a history before you came on the scene, but you are his mom and his only mom for the forseeable future, so don't use a term that makes him feel like he is something less. Kids often feel insecure when a younger one comes along, and that could be especially true in this circumstance. Try to spend special quality time with him and just him. Go to a movie together, do something fun. Let your husband stay at home with the baby while the two of you have some quality mother - son time.

Second, what is this "discipline"? Yes, kids need certain boundaries and structure. That is not the same as him being a bad boy whose behaviors really need to be corrected. Maybe his first mom and dad had a different sense of how much structure and how much freedom was appropriate. There is no magic right or wrong answer. Some behaviors are clearly never acceptable, but for most things, each family needs to work out what is their family norm. In trying to give him structure, are you inadvertantly creating a situation where he feels he is never good enough and can never meet your expectations? You did not provide a lot of information here, so my simple suggestion is to save the heavy hammer for the big stuff and not sweat the small stuff. His feeling love and acceptance is more important than getting into a pitched battle over his dirty socks making their way to the laundry hamper.

Good luck, and don't be reluctant to seek professional help if it really gets difficult.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sarasota on

I am a mother of 2 ages 5 & 10. I went through a divorce and then married the man of my dreams. He has a grown son and a grandson that is one year younger than my 5 year old daughter. Here's my advise (for what it's worth).. The step parent should only be the disciplinarian as a last resort! It's hard enough on kids to bring a new person into the family without having that person also be responsible for the discipline as well. I think you should really have a heart to heart with your husband. He NEEDS to take over this responsibility. There's alot to be said for the old saying we heard when we were kids "Wait til your father comes home". And then I would suggest that you and your step son should spend some time together and plan a fun activity for just the two of you. It is so important that you build a strong relationship with him now before those wonderful teenage years begin! I discipline and he backs me up. My husband and I have been together now for 4 years and my kids think he is the most wonderful man on earth and I really feel it's because I discipline the kids and he gets to be the "good guy". Hope that helps....good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

Hi L.
I am on the other side of your relationship. I had a son and my husband came into his life at the the of 4. His father was not in the picture. This is my opinion viewing their relationship. My husband quickly took on the role of being a disciplinarian to my son. My son is now 10 and they do have a great relationship. But I do feel that there is a difference in the way he loves our 2year old daughters and my son. I feel that it is the inner thought that you have to change, don't think of him as your stepson..think of this child as your own. You have taken on the mother role, which at the age of 5 and on is mostly a disciplinary role, which i might add will be the same your own child ages. You unfortunately didn't get to birth this great child and missed the first couple years. But remember the softer side of mothering also, let him know you love him and don't love him differently than your other child and he won't feel lesser loved. Best of luck to you and your family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Punta Gorda on

Even as a parent, there are times when my husband is away on business, or working late, or golfing, or whatever else keeps him from being home that I feel like all I am is the iron fist. He gets to be Mr. fun, and I get to be Mrs. Mean. My husband and I have talked at length about it, and prayed at length about it. Something that has worked in our house, is on nights when he is home he gives more instruction about showers, and bed, and TV time, sometimes I have to remind him, but he does it. He also makes an effort when he is away to call before bed time and remind the girls that it is almost bed time and he expects them to respecct me and to listen to me. I feel like it has taught out girls that we are in this togehter, and there is nothing that I will tell them that he would not say if he were here. We have also had discussion at the dinner table about discipline and he always sayt things like mom was nice if I were here I would have, or I agree good job mom, or do you think your mom wanted to do that, should you appologize to her. My girls are 11 and 13 and we have a lot of issues with emotional girls bickering.

The second thing that has helped a lot is me making one on one time for both of them. They are in different schools, because of where there grades fall, so sometimes it is easy, the yonger one goes to school, and I can take the older one out for breakfast. The younger one gets out of school and we can go for ice cream before I pick up her sister. Sometimes they have special requests, mom I want you to take me to the video store, or the library this week. My husband is away on business so I have to make it there time with only me. I will make the younger one bring her gameboy to the library and sit in a chair and play game boy while I help her sister look for books for her research project, it is our time and her sister does not get the benefit. Make quality time for your 8 year old.

Lastly I have no experience with a step child, but have you thought about adoption. Make a big deal out of the fact that you want to be his mother, that you are in it for the long haul. Have a party with friends and family celebrating that fact that you are his mom, make it legal. Give him a gift that is special from you to him. Remember that he lost a mother at a young age, and make not feel like you are going to be around frever.

Good Luck and God Bless you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Don't fret when your step son is older you will be the one he looks up to and respects because you love him enough to see that he learns right from wrong. Right now it doesn't seem that way but you will be well rewarded in the end. Just make sure you treat your child the same as you treat him. No special attention or favors. You husband will be the one that loses in the end because he wasn't man enough to stand up and do what is right. If I were you I would get him to read the answers you get even it it means printing them and handing them to him. Shame on him for not doing what he should be. Thank God he has a Step Mom that really cares and loves him.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

First thing is first, my heart goes out to your son. He experinced something very tragic at such an early stage in his young life and its wonderful you love him, because he needs it. Being a child myself who has experinced having both, step-parents and trama at around the age of 4-5, I can in some ways relate.

A child no matter what there age when the new parent becomes active in their lives, the child will know if that parent thinks of them as their child or not. Children are very good at sensing weither some one truly cares or has bad intensions or thinks of them as less then their other children or even putting their relationship first instead of the child. Perhaps by moving into his life too quickly or forcing rules too soon, he now feels one of those things towards you or your husband.

My best sugestion would be to get family/individual cousiling for all of you, expecially your husband. He needs to know that you cant be the only one doing all the work in regards to disapline and structure for your family. He needs to step up and be the main positive male role model/discipline in his sons life.

You and your husband have to build your families life together. From what you've writen, it sounds like you the one doing all the dirty work while he hides. Your husband should be the one to set the best example for your children, and you cant keep taking the role of the evil step-mother because he is "too busy" to be a dad. And YES being a positive male role model is part of the dad description.

One more thing I would like to add, sometimes you need to step back or loosen the rules a little. Being over stricked or jumping in everytime his father does step up to disipline will only make matters worse. Good luck in this very difficult situation, and if you need help finding a thearpist or cousiler, I can refer you to some cheap wonderful places.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

L.,why were you made the rule setter for a step child? when i was a kid,(my mom got killed) and my dad moved in this lady only because she had a kid and was fixing to be homeless. well she ended up living with us for three whole years (shacked up with my dad)and my dad had made her the rule setter/diciplinarian the whole time she was liveing with us even before they got married. she was the worst b-i-t-c-h i had ever met in my life. (i am not saying that you are though.)i personally dont feel that a step parent should have that resonsibility put on there shoulders. i was a step mom once, and i never took that role. i know a step family is supposed to be one/unison etc, but i really think that that should be handled by the dad. i have never seen a step parent have a great/loving/parenting relationship with a child that they became the step parent to after there infancy/toddlerhood. i have only seen it work if the step parent has been there pretty much since birth. i personally suggest that you might want to try and work on some leniancy with your step son.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Hey there mama,
My husband (he had NO children) and I married when my boy had just turned 3. My son's father is very much still involved in his life so it is a different situation, but the whole blended family element is very challenging.

Hubby and I have had 3 children of our own (with another on the way,) so I have some experience watching my husband grow as a father and the difference when it is your own flesh and blood. It is definitely different. He admits it and it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's natural.

I think personality factors in quite a bit, everyone's.. yours, your husbands, and both of your children's. My oldest has a very strong personality and so does my husband. I am more laid back. Our boy together is very compliant. Our 2 daughters are equally different than our boys. It is just not an easy thing to be a family, blended or otherwise. It's awesome, it's a blessing, but it is also very challenging.!

We have tried counselling, and I've read books, and although these are good things and sometimes helpful, we have found the Lord is definitely the answer. We have been married 7 years now and we were told in a blended family class (at Bell Shoals Baptist Church) that it takes 7 years to "blend". Well, we are still working on it. We've made many strides in the right direction and we've made huge messes and mistakes's just not God's first plan (marriage first then children...) but God also says that true religion is to take care of orphans and widows... so it is definitley POSSIBLE to get it right!!

We just have to keep plugging away and doing our best and being humble enough to admit when what we're doing isn't working and try something different. We have found that being honest with each other and the children, by admitting our faults and apologizing when we miss it, has gone a long way in bonding us all together.

You are doing a noble work. I agree with the whole "one on one thing." Blended or not. We do that too and it is very important to all of us. Even taking one child on a simple errand and leaving the others at home makes a big deal out of something that would otherwise have been a missed opportunity. Just a little attention goes a long way when it's just mama and child (or daddy and child)!

Be a good listener too. I really have to work at this. Just shut down the teacher mode (within reason of course) and let him talk and eventually he'll open up his heart wider. You'll fall in love deeper. So will he.

I also love the adoption idea. That would be huge. Definitely a special ring or something he's into that has some lasting value (a pocket watch is something else my 10 yr old has that he LOVES.) I gave him a special ring and he loves it. It's really a purity ring, but it reminds him of "us" and our special times together. It also reminds me to work on keeping the lines of communication open and initiating conversations about those harder subjects...It's a constant reminder since he NEVER takes it off. (it's sterling)

We don't do the date thing weekly, not with 4 (and also we homeschool so we are together a lot). But even monthly or bi monthly counts. The reading alone together suggestion is another special bonding time. We do that. I read him books that are above his reading level and rub his feet while he listens.. he loves that.

Don't feel like you have to spend money or a ton of time...just pour on the love..he'll respond..
1 Corinthians 13:8 says, "Love never fails..." and God would know.

I'll be praying for you,

Love, K.

Hope this helps!

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