Who should you be when you are around your date's children? Besides the obvious answer (“You should be yourself”), there are some other things to consider, and to strive for:
As you think about your role as a stepparent, remember to turn the tables, and consider your own kids' needs and your partner's relationship with them.
- Don't scold the child. That is not your role.
- Don't ignore the child. Nobody likes to be ignored, and ignoring children doesn't work anyway. They just get more insistent and whiny.
- Don't judge them.
- Don't assume intimacy.
- Consider the child's feelings, wishes, and plans. Have the parent ask permission to invite a friend (you!) over for dinner. It's the kid's house too, you know, and you are asking to spend time with the kid's parent.
- Hold back. Let the child come to you. There's lots of time for intimacy.
- Realize that any bad reaction may not be to you. The child may need some asserting that he will be loved and cared for just as he was before the divorce. Go slow.
- Treat the child like a friend—a young friend, but a friend.
- Remember that dating relationships can provide good role models. You are not evil for being there. If you believe it, you're on the road to having the kid believe it, too.
- Concentrate on your love relationship, not your relationship with the whole family. The love and respect you are building forms the foundation of your relationship and, if you choose to take it further, of the family.
- Hope and wait for the kids to realize that they can't and won't scare you away, that you are not trying to replace their parent, that you are not trying to steal their parent, and that you are respectful of them. Over time and with the right treatment, the kids will see the joy you bring to their parent.
- And in case the adult love of your life isn't reading this book, too, and you've got little loves of your life at home, make sure you share the above words of wisdom with him. After all, you want your children's hearts to be won as well, yes?