Dear Kerry

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I have a teenage daughter and my new husband has a young daughter, as well. He is a wonderful stepdad to my daughter, but I just can’t seem to connect to his daughter. I’m not trying to replace her mother, but I do want to have a great relationship with her. How can I build her trust?

 

Building the relationship with your stepchildren can be one of the most difficult parts of establishing the dynamic for your blended family, so be sure to take it slow. Allow your stepchild to establish the pace of bonding. Teens can be tough eggs to crack as it is, and she may have some feelings about you or your role in her life that she has not shared with you yet. Be there for her just as another supportive adult in her life, and let her learn to trust you over time. She already has two parents, a third should just be a bonus.

Picture yourself in her shoes. Stepchildren do not get a choice in a lot of decisions made for their homelife. Their parents are separating and finding new partners, and they may not know the parameters of the custody schedule. None of those things tend to be up to them, which can be frustrating for anyone. Start by exploring some of her interests and pursue something in which you might also naturally be interested. Allow the relationship to grow organically to give yourselves an authentic foundation for a relationship.

Let the biological parents do the discipline; you are there for support, guidance and – if you are lucky – fun dish and secrets. As your relationship grows and time goes on, the trust will naturally grow. Keep in mind that trust is earned, not given. Depending on what has happened in this girl’s past, she may be slow to trust – and that is something that would not necessarily be about you.

Be real, and encourage the same from your stepchildren. Kids tend to not get enough credit, but they pick up on quite a bit. They will be able to tell if you are not being real with them, so skip the feelings of distrust and offer them the same respect and openness you would hope to receive. Don’t bother to pretend to be something you’re not, and encourage the same kind of openness from them. Eventually, you will look up one day and realize the trust in your relationship would not have been able to grow in any other way.

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