How Can I Bond with My Step-Kid? They're Driving me Nuts!
I love my step-daughter, Annika! She is continuing to grow into a beautiful young woman both inside and out...and yet, in certain seasons she has driven me absolutely nuts! There were many times over the years that I thought we would never be able to build a connection.
On several occasions, I have complained to Kim when I was feeling frustrated with Annika saying something like, "Why can't she just..." (fill in the blank). In her wisdom, Kim would respond, "Because she's not you". A simple, yet profound statement.
Your step-child is not you! They are uniquely wired to be who THEY are, not necessarily who you want them to be.
Crock-Pot Cooking (Review)
Last week, Kim shared the best way to "cook" a stepfamily...using the Crock-Pot. (You might want to read about that now) When ingredients are cooked in a crock-pot, they remain intact and whole. When the meal is finished cooking, the roast is still the roast, the potatoes are still potatoes and the carrots are still carrots; yet something new is created as the flavors blend together.
In stepfamilies, we are the ingredients...adults and children are all thrown in a single environment and we each remain unique; yet something new and beautiful can emerge when relational bonds develop. As the adults in our stepfamilies, it is our job to create an environment where healthy bonding can occur over time.
You cannot fabricate bonds. You can only create the opportunity for them to happen.
Who Is This Kid?
Once we accept that it's okay for our step-kids to be different from us, then we can move forward in bonding. This means we have to get curious about our step-kids. Curiosity tends to kill judgment.
When I began to ask questions about why Annika responds to life the way she does, I stopped judging and started learning. I started to see that she is uniquely wired. I could identify that her wiring was different than mine and that neither were necessarily better or worse, but simply different. I learned to ask questions, trying to see the world from her point of view rather than simply forcing my perspective onto her.
It was all about discovery.
Discover Their Personality
Discovery isn't always an easy process. Sometimes we need some help. Here's a resource that can help you gain insight into yourself and your step-kid that can build a bridge over that relational chasm you might be facing.
The book Nurture by Nature by Paul & Barbara Tieger is packed with practical tips on how to understand the unique personality of your kids / step-kids and how you can respond as a parent / step-parent to who they naturally are.
Too busy to read a book? Great! You don't have to read this one cover to cover! The first 60 pages or so gives you the tools you need to identify your wiring and your child's wiring, then you can just skip to their unique personality type to focus on how to parent your individual child.
The investment is minimal, but the payoff is huge! Intentionally focusing on learning about who Annika is and what makes her tick validated her, honored her and helped create a new relational dynamic between us that continues to pay off even into her young adult years!
Don't stay stuck in frustration with your step-child. Acknowledge that they are different than you and that it's okay. Then, move into curiosity and discover who they are and why they respond to the world the way they do.
There are lots of resources out there to help, so find one that works for you and start to open new opportunities for bonding in your stepfamily today.
By the way...this isn't just for step-parents and step-kids...it's true for every relationship in your home!
QUESTION: What unique characteristics do you see in your child or step-child that you want to learn more about? Leave a comment below: