5 Ways To Forge A Life-Long Bond With A Stepchild You Don't Always Like

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Happy mom and step-daughter outdoors

The relationship between children and parents has never been easy. However, there's definitely nothing more complicated than the relationship between a child and a step-parent.

According to 2020 statistics, 10.5 million children are living in residential stepfamilies. But not all those families can be seen as an example of positive step-parenting. 

If you’re wondering how to deal with stepkids you don’t like, you can learn how to improve your relationship with them.

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Why is it so hard to love a step-child?

To deal with stepkids you don’t get along with, you need to get to the bottom of why it's so hard for you to like them.

The truth is, some kids are not all that likable. Thus, there may be several reasons for you not to like them, including:

  • The disrespect they show toward you or your partner (their biological parent).
  • They are manipulative and extremely needy, trying to consume all your partner’s time and energy.
  • They manifest extreme behavior (addictions, stealing, running away).
  • They remind you of your partner’s ex.
  • They make false claims that may cause some serious consequences for you.
  • Their personalities just can’t match yours, making it hard to relate to them or find anything in common.

Some of these reasons may be the child’s difficulties adapting to a new living situation having a step-parent, but some may have nothing to do with you personally.

And though it may sometimes seem impossible to accept a stepchild, especially a troubled one, there are still ways to bond with them in the long run.

What do you do when you don’t like your stepchild?

No relationship with a stepchild is simple, but you can still learn how to connect with them.

RELATED: "I Love My Kids Differently" (And 5 More Truths About Blended Families)

Here are 5 ways to grow closer to your stepchild if you're struggling to love them.

1. Dedicate quality time to them.

Sometimes, if you don’t like your stepchild, it’s because you haven’t had a chance to spend quality time with them. The best way to bond with a stepchild is to try doing stuff together.

This way, you will get to know them while showing them what you’re like. 

Think about it this way, when you meet a new person, it’s really important to get to know them and learn something about their personality. 

If you hate your boyfriend's daughter or son, try spending time with them to cultivate good feelings toward them, as you will create more positive interactions.

Walk the dog together. Talk about the movie or TV show you’ve both just watched. Cook a nice meal for a family dinner. These amicable interactions will help you learn something about each other and finally create a bond between you two. 

2. Treat them fair and square. 

No one likes being mistreated, especially kids. And your job, being an adult, is to keep things fair and square between you two.

So even if you can’t stand your stepchild, you must remember that it’s not a reason to scold them over nothing or punish them for minor things. 

Of course, you won’t necessarily deal with explicitly rational or well-behaved kids, but you should remember that they’re already going through much stress as they're now living in a blended family.

Show them that you respect them and are always ready to treat them fairly no matter how you feel about them. And even though they may not acknowledge when you’re right, they will remember your fair-minded attitude.

3. Take your share of the responsibility.

Committing to a loving relationship with a partner who already has a kid means you are getting involved in the process of shaping their child into the person they will become.

Thus, you should accept that you will be one of the adults to parent and raise stepchildren. 

While it may be easy to get caught up in the moment and have a prejudice against your stepchild, you should remember that you’re part of a bigger picture in their life.

Be a role model, a person they look up to, someone they can come to for advice and support. Even if you aren’t a biological parent, you’re still the parent, so act like it.

RELATED: What It Feels Like To Love A Child That Isn't Yours To Love

4. Fill them in about your life.

"I don’t like my partner’s teenage son" or "My partner’s son is ruining our relationship" can often be heard when it comes to raising your partner’s child. However, these things don’t have to be true in your case.

Mostly, the child sees you as a threat to the life they were used to and may not like you out of loyalty to their other parent. And that has nothing to do with you as a person.

Fill them in about your life, interests, and hobbies, and let them see you as a real person to help them build a rapport with you. Moreover, if they hear you talking about yourself, it’ll make it much easier for them to open up to you.

Of course, it won’t immediately make you love your stepchildren, but it will help you start breaking the ice between you.

5. Try positive reinforcement.

Rewarding the good behavior of your stepchild may improve your relationship. 

Everyone likes being encouraged and praised, so the children will feel more comfortable around you and willing to spend time in your company.

Positive reinforcement is a great way to shape your stepchild’s personality so you won’t have to wonder why it is so hard to love a stepchild as your relationship will become less and less tense.

Even if you don’t like your new spouse's kid straight away, you must keep in mind that they’re part of your partner’s life — and they aren’t going anywhere.

So the best thing you can do is accept the situation while doing your part to change those things you have control over.

RELATED: 7 Tips To Keep Your Blended Family Strong & Show Your Partner Love

Natalie Maximets is a life transformation coach with expertise in clinical and existential psychology.