When you marry someone, you’re not just making a lifelong commitment to them; you’re making a lifelong commitment to their family, too! While you are indeed making a lifelong commitment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will see you as part of the family right away. Stepdaughters can be especially difficult to connect with. Naturally, you want to build a relationship with your stepdaughter, but you shouldn’t just go in blind. To help you out, here are five meaningful ways to connect with your stepdaughter.
1. Respect Her Boundaries
Your first instinct may be to act super friendly and dad-like right away, but she will not be very receptive to this. You wouldn’t like it if a stranger insisted on acting super familiar towards you, would you? She’ll have a much closer relationship with her mother, and you shouldn’t expect to ask the questions, do the things, and generally act in a way that a familiar family member would at the start. She may have a problem making anything more than a polite conversation with you in the beginning. You may want to push it, but you absolutely should not! If you push her boundaries and don’t show her the respect or autonomy that she deserves, she will reject you, and she’ll likely have a very hard time trusting you in the future.
2. Giver Her Time
“Stepfathers who stay the course—despite the obstacles and frustration—out of dedication and a sense of duty, are among the world’s most frequently overlooked unsung heroes (Unknown).” This is one of the most accurate stepdad quotes in existence. Like it or not, there will be frustration, but you’ll have to suck it up. You may want to go in right away and establish a relationship from the start, but chances are, it will take some time for her to warm up to you. For a while, she may see you as little more than some stranger who married her mother, and that’s ok. Although you may be eager to develop a bond, she still has to develop trust for you. This is all new to her, and it’s likely scary, frustrating, and odd at the same time. With time, she will grow used to your presence, and if you treat her with dignity and respect, she will grow to trust you. All you have to do is have a little patience.
3. Treat the Family With Respect
If she sees you being short with her mother or another family member, that’ll just cement your status as an outsider. Kids are very perceptive, and if she feels like you don’t treat her mother or family members with respect, or if she feels like her family doesn’t like you, then you will have no place in her heart. Your status as her family is a privilege, not a right. You should be respectful and cordial towards your new in-laws and extended family anyway, and that’s doubly true if you want to impress your new step-daughter.
4. Take Time to Listen
Whether she’s really opening up or just sharing a small detail of her day, you have to pay attention. If she tells you something and you immediately forget, you’ll look like a jerk who doesn’t care. Even if the details seem minor or trivial by your standards, she considers her words important. If you make that tiny little effort to show her that you’re listening, she’ll be much more likely to trust you and open up to you in the future.
5. Make Meaningful Gestures
A meaningful gesture doesn’t have to be grandiose. Even a tiny act can show that you care. Does she love banana pancakes more than anything else? Make them every now and again. Has she been talking about wanting to visit the local alpaca farm for a while? Talk to her mother and try to make it happen. These small efforts don’t take much time or energy, but she will pick up on what you’re doing and grow to like you more.
By researching how to connect to your stepdaughter, you're already on the right track. As long as you show her the respect and dignity that you show everyone else in your family, she will eventually come around. While it may be a slow process, patience will help you weather the storm. Being a stepdad can be challenging at times, but when you do it right, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences ever.