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Introducing children to a new stepfamily situation

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  Kailey Foster: Introducing your child to a new significant other can be stressful, especially as that significant other becomes a more permanent fixture in their life. Joining me today is Nicole Brouwer facilitator of USU Extension’s Smart Steps for Stepfamily’s course.

What are some of the worries that come with introducing children to a step-parenting situation?

Nicole Brouwer: So, when a stepparent is introduced into the life of a child, it's very common for that child to resist forming a relationship with that new adult in their life. Research shows that this resistance comes from an inner belief that if the child formed a relationship with their new step-parent if they begin to enjoy that connection, there's somehow being disloyal to their other parents.

So, we have an opportunity to help prep the children for those feelings. We can let our kids know that we support and value their relationship with the child's other parent, that's no longer part of the household. And we can assure them that a step-parent is not there to be a replacement. But in addition to the family.

KF: I guess, how can children benefit from this new dynamic?

NB: In the Smart Steps Course, we teach that it's ideal for a child's parents, and any step-parents, to work together as a team in the best interest of the children. And when stepfamilies are created with this understanding, a child has the benefit of seeing their step-parents as just additional sources of love and support that complement and enhance their family dynamic.

KF: So what tips can you give for families that are trying to create this new bond?

NB:  One of the best things a stepparent can do is to get to know the interests of each child in the family, and find ways to spend one on one time with them. This could look like offering to drive a child to soccer practice and in the car asking them to maybe teach you a little about the game or building Legos together with a child before dinner, or reading books before bed.

But just finding those little moments to connect each day through play and conversation is a great way to build meaningful relationships.

KF: Yeah, and we have a little time left, why don't you tell me a little bit about how the course can help with these new bonds.

NB: So, the Smart Steps Course, it's a research-based program. And we have a lot of strategies and tips that we offer in how to build those connections, how to strengthen the couple relationship. That's a new relationship building, how to build those step-parents, stepchild bonds, bringing family together through unity by creating a new family culture. There are just so many things we can do to set up our families for success and to bring joy and peace to this process of forming as a stepfamily.

Kailey Foster is a senior at Utah State University studying Agricultural Communications, Broadcast Journalism, and Political Science while also getting a minor in Agribusiness. She was raised in the dairy industry in Rhode Island where she found her passion for the agriculture industry as a whole. Here at USU, she has held various leadership positions in the Dairy Science Club and the local Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. She also also served as the 2020 Utah Miss Agriculture and is currently the 2021 Utah Ms. Agriculture. Here at UPR, she works on agriculture news stories and she produces agriculture segments such as USU Extension Highlights, the Green Thumb, and Ag Matters.