As a stepmom, developing and maintaining a relationship with your stepchildren can be difficult under normal circumstances, but developing and maintaining a relationship with stepchildren who live hours or even days away is another ball of wax entirely. Maybe you’ve never met them, maybe you see them during holidays or throughout the summer. It can be awkward, it can be exciting, and it can be mentally taxing! If your stepchildren are not prevented to communicating with you or their father try a few of the following ideas to help your relationship along:
Make it feel as though you are right there with them when they might need you.
You can do this by making an audio tape, or even a video tape of yourself reading a bedtime story, put on your pajamas, get a cup of hot chocolate, and sit down and talk to them. Before you start reading the story say hello, tell them of any news you have for the day, tell them about a pet you might have (include the pet in the video!) and begin the story. Read it just as you would if they were sitting right on your lap. Another way to approach a story is to buy two books, the same title and read it to them over the phone, or speaker phone before bed. The child goes to bed with pleasant thoughts of you and dad. They will not feel forgotten!
Surprise them to let them know they are on your mind.
Mail them a small photo album each month of every day living in your home. Pictures of the cat being silly, of your husband snoring in the chair, of dad shaving, or of any other children involved in their daily activities. Make it fun, even silly, so that the child doesn’t feel as though he/she is missing out. Sometimes heavy reminders can backfire. Try not to accentuate events that the child may have missed – they probably don’t want to be reminded or enlightened. Keep those things low key.
Always tell them you love them.
Always remember to tell them you love them every time. Do not tell them that you are sad or upset they are not with you. They do not need to be burdened by your heavy heart.
Always mention the next time you will see them and stick to it!
Talk to them about your next time together. Set a firm date and make sure your husband has transportation worked out well ahead of time. Children need to know what to expect. They shouldn’t have to wonder or worry when they will see you or dad again.
Correspond daily if you have e-mail!
Kids usually love to use the computer. If the child has access to a computer at home, tell them that you would like to send them e-mail every evening or whenever it is convenient. Send them e-cards! Send them pictures of your husband or of you and the other kids if there are any. Send them the beginnings of a silly story you’ve made up and ask them to continue it in their next e-mail back. When it’s finished you will have a very silly story and you will learn a lot about your stepchild and how his or her imagination can run!
Make a web page!
Make a easy to navigate web site for your stepchild to visit whenever he or she can. See if they can make it their home page. Instructions on how to do that are here. Add links to some fun, safe and happy places for the child to visit when you update. Add some cool pictures you can download from the web. Update a personal note addressing the child each time you update, say hello, and ask them what else they might like to see on their page. Keep the web site safe for the child so that they can not venture into unknown web territory. You can get free web space almost anywhere on the web. Add your voice or their father’s voice to the web site!
Acknowledge their accomplishments at school or anywhere.
If you are missing school plays, recitals, competitions, etc, send them something to congratulate them on a job well done. It doesn’t matter if they did not come first or win the trophy, you are proud just the same. Arrange to have a treat delivered such as fast food, a small gift, or even some money in a card with a handwritten note to let them know you dad are on top of things in their life. If you can, call them when the event is over to talk to them about it.
Of course the most important things you can do as stepmom is to encourage the relationship between father and child. Your relationship with the child is also important to maintain and develop, if not for them, for you. It takes some effort and dedication to keep the lines of communication open. Don’t obsess over it, just make it all part of your daily living. Make sure you enlist other family members, especially “Dad” to participate.