Becoming a step-parent presents many challenges – even in the best situations. Becoming a step-parent to adult children is especially difficult. The children have grown accustomed to a family dynamic that does not include you, and they are not forced to see you every day or spend time with you that they don’t want to spend, as they would if they were younger.
Building a relationship with adult children when you re-marry requires some special considerations. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Start from the Beginning
Don’t wait until your marriage is final before you start thinking about your relationship. As soon as you meet the children, start making efforts to build a relationship. Share conversations about things you have in common. Invite them to spend some one-on-one time with you to get to know each other better.
Establish a friendly relationship right from the start and work on building it over time.
Though you may want to have a close relationship with your beloved’s children right away, they may not feel the same toward you. It may take time before you have a relationship with them – or before they even want to have one with you. Don’t push too much too soon.
Learn to respect their boundaries, and you will be more successful in your attempts to forge a relationship. This extends far beyond respecting what they want in a relationship from you. Recognize that though they are your spouse’s “children,” they are actually grown adults who deserve respect.
Don’t Try to Be a Parent
This is a good rule of thumb for step-parents to children of any age. Your spouse’s children already have parents, and they are unlikely to want to replace either one of them, no matter how much they may like you (or grow to like you). As adults, it is unlikely that they need a real parental figure anyway.
Focus on being a positive and loving person in their lives. If you are successful at building the relationship, you may even become their friend (maybe even a close friend).
Adult step-children have their own fully formed personalities and their own lives. They don’t have to have a relationship with you. They don’t even have to like you. Know that what you expect to happen in the situation may never materialize. You may do everything you can to build a bridge, and all your efforts may be rejected.
Focus instead on doing being polite and keeping the situation pleasant. Over time, you may build on that and find some common ground. You may even be able to build on that and find your way to friendship. Just accept that your expectations may not match the reality of the situation, and you just have to act accordingly.
Becoming the step-parent to adult children can be a difficult and complicated process. However, you can manage to build positive and rewarding relationships with them with some effort. Just remember to respect boundaries and avoid trying to become a parent as you work on the relationship.
Did you become the step-parent to adult children when you re-married? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!
Tara Spenser is currently the resident writer for workingcapital.org, where she researches the most affordable business capital available. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging, swimming and being a mom.