Once you have your ground rules in place, communicate them to your kids and stepkids.
Decide how you’re going to respond to infractions – will you take away phone or TV privileges, for example. Be consistent and fair in applying your new ground rules to everyone.
Be a good role model
How to get along with stepchildren? You can start by striving to be their role model.
Your kids and stepkids pick up a lot just from observing you and your partner, so be sure to set a good example.
Talk to them and each other with respect and kindness, even when things are tense. Let them see you handling conflicts with grace and a strong sense of fairness.
Show them how to listen and be considerate, by listening and being considerate with them and your partner.
If you have tween or teens in the household, try to get them on board with this. Older children can make wonderful role models, and your little ones are even more likely to copy their siblings than their parents.
Teach both sharing and respect
Step siblings arguing constantly can be due to their ability to share and respect each other. A lack of respect can turn your kids into siblings that hate each other.
Teaching children to share nicely is vital, but teaching respect for each other’s possessions is just as important.
During the process of blending a family, both sets of kids will feel like their familiar lifestyle is being taken away from them.
Having their things used, borrowed, or even broken by their new step siblings will only add to this sense of powerlessness.
It’s important for your children to play nice and share communal items such as the TV, outside play equipment, or family board games, so they can learn to share with their new sibling.
You might consider setting up schedules if one child feels their sibling is getting too much of something.
However, it’s also important to teach step siblings respect for each other’s possessions, and that there are some things they’re not allowed to take.
Show your children and stepchildren that you respect their personal possessions and that you expect them to do the same for each other.
Give everyone some privacy
Children, especially older children and teenagers, need some privacy.
Children in blended families feel like their space and privacy is being taken away from them, especially if they’ve inherited younger siblings who want to follow them around!
Make sure all your step siblings get some privacy when they need it. This could be time alone in their room, or if they don’t have separate rooms, it could be time set aside in the den or at the dining table for hobbies.
Perhaps some time outside or a trip to the park or mall with their biological parent will prove to be just the thing. Support all children in your family to have their own time and space when they need it – you’ll save a lot of stress and anger.
If you want the step siblings in your family to bond with each other, make sure you set aside some family time when they can bond with each other and with you.
For example, you might try setting aside a regular family mealtime when everyone can sit down around the table and talk about what happened for them that day.
Or you might designate a weekly beach day or game night when everyone can get together for some fun.
Setting aside time for fun activities helps reinforce the idea that step siblings are fun new playmates and someone to make happy memories with. Remember to offer treats and fun time equally, so no one feels left out.
Don’t force things
Trying to force step siblings to get along is bound to backfire.
Encouraging time together is vital, but do allow everyone their own space, too. Your kids and stepkids might be able to learn to be civil and spend a little time together but won’t become the best of friends, and that’s ok.
Give everyone to indulge their time and space and let the relationships develop naturally. Don’t get attached to the idea of your kids getting along wonderfully. A respectful truce is much more realistic than expecting them to become the best of friends.
Helping step siblings get along is no easy task. Muster your patience, set good boundaries, and treat all the young people in your newly blended family with respect and kindness to help things along.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Sylvia Smith loves to share insights on how couples can revitalize their love lives in and out of the bedroom. As a writer at Marriage.com, she is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt this principle in their lives too. Sylvia believes that every couple can transform their relationship into a happier, healthier one by taking purposeful and wholehearted action.