How to Strengthen the Bond Between a Stepfather and Stepdaughter

By Erica Loop
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Whether you're a stepfather trying to get to know your new stepdaughter or a biological mother who is trying to facilitate a bond between your new husband and your daughter, being part of a blended family is far from uncommon. Roughly 20 percent of all kids who live in homes with two married parents are part of blended -- or step -- families, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org. From careful communication to investing in mutual interests, strengthening the ties between a stepfather and stepdaughter is a process that takes time.

For the Stepfather

Build your relationship gradually. In the article, "Becoming a Stepparent," child development experts at the Kids Health website suggest starting slow and letting the bond build in a natural way. Avoid pushing your stepdaughter to become your best friend or act like your biological child overnight. Give her the time and space she needs to warm up to you.

Provide your stepdaughter with love, not superficial gifts or money. Even though a brand new doll or the latest cellphone -- depending on her age -- may make her smile, only true caring and affection will strengthen your bond. Tell her that you care about her, give her a hug when she's sad or simply offer to listen to her problems after a tough day at school.

Discover shared or similar interests. Talk to your stepdaughter to find out what both of you like to do. For example, when she makes a comment about her favorite player while you're watching a basketball game on TV, ask her whether she just enjoys watching the sport or she likes to play. If she says she likes to watch, offer to take her to a game or make plans to watch televised games together on occasion. If she says she also likes to play the sport, set up a hoop in the yard or go to the local park for a stepfather-stepdaughter game.

Respect your stepdaughter. Observe her boundaries -- such as not going into her room unannounced -- and show her she can trust you.

For the Mother

Start strengthening the bond from the beginning. Talk to your new mate about including your daughter in the wedding ceremony. Help her to invest in the idea that the three of you are a new family unit. Have your future husband ask his stepdaughter-to-be to hold on to the rings, read a speech, sing a song or stand with the two of you at the altar during the ceremony.

Facilitate the bonding process between your new husband and your daughter with a family conversation. Have a meeting where the three of you set new family rules and discuss hopes, fears and worries.

Schedule a stepfather-stepdaughter evening without you. For example, buy tickets to a new movie for the two of them to check out together or make dinner reservations for them. Alternatively, you could ask your husband and daughter to make dinner for the family together -- just the two of them.

Warning

Don't take over the role of disciplinarian too soon. Even though you will need to enforce the rules -- as a step-parent too -- let her mom take the reins for now.

Avoid forcing a bond or telling her that she needs to love you because you're her stepfather.

Never bad-mouth or try to take over the role of her biological father. There's plenty of room in her life for all of the people who love her.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.