Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- Weekend visits form stepchildren can be stressful, especially during the holidays. Giving relationships time to grow is key to making the visits more enjoyable, said a New Mexico State University child and family life specialist.
"When stepchildren are just visiting for the weekend or very short periods of time, it might take two or three years before you can even develop a relationship," Said Diana DelCampo with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "Don't force stepchildren to love you, but do ask for some respect, understanding and honesty."
The children need to feel at home. "Don't treat visiting stepchildren like guests," she advised. "Treat them like they are part of the family."
As such, stepchildren need to have a place to keep their personal belongings. Also, make sure they know the house rules to keep the stress level lower. If you introduce the children to playmates in the neighborhood, they can have fun while visiting.
"Try to say positive things that really help the children to feel good about themselves and where they are," DelCampo said. "It's easy to say, 'You know your dad really looks forward to your visits, and I'm glad you were able to come this weekend."
If conflicts do arise, stepparents shouldn't allow themselves to become doormats. "Speak up for yourself if the stepchildren say something hurtful to you," she said.
Finally, make sure the biological parent has time alone with the children. "You have to remember that they need to spend time alone with the child or children, and not to consider that as taking time away from you," DelCampo. "If you allow them some space, that's going to strengthen your marriage relationship even more."
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