Being a stepparent is a daunting task, even when you get along with the kids. My stepdaughters live three hours away from me and visit every other weekend, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from being part of their lives! I sat down with them and we brainstormed 99 ways we could keep in touch. Here's Idea #66: "Start doing the word of the week."

My stepfamily LOVES the word of the week! Well, OK, I love the word of the week; the rest show a polite interest. This is not vocabulary and spelling. It's a deep discussion of concepts and what those concepts mean to your kids and yourself.

I've used "respect," "abundance," and "gratitude." Not everything in life needs to be a Teaching Moment, and keep your kids' age in mind: little kids do well with simple words like "sharing," and older kids can handle a discussion about "heroism."

You'll be amazed at how sophisticated their understanding of concepts can be, and these discussions give you a peek into their brains and into the life they lead when you're not around.

Here's how you make this activity happen, "step by step."

1. DO NOT discuss the behaviors of siblings, biological parents, relatives, or yourself. NO criticism. Keep it neutral.

2. Depending on your personality, you might choose to "hide" the fact you're having deep discussions and picking your kid's brain. Look for opportunities to discuss deep concepts by jumping off school assignments, television shows, books, or the actions of other people. ("See how that woman just held the door for us? What do you think of her being so polite?")

3. I myself am comfortable announcing, "OK, kids, the word of the week is "polite"! What do you think that word means?"

4. It's helpful if you've thought some deep thoughts yourself on the subject, before you bring it up with the kids. Your purpose is not to ram your ideas down their throats. Your purpose is to dig out of them what they think, and to gently help them shape their understanding of the world.

5. Follow through and complete the discussion. Our ideas of the world are a synthesis of our knowledge and experience. Your stepkids have less knowledge and fewer experiences, and they often understand the world in terms of what adults have told them. You must follow through and talk about your own ideas while acknowledging and supporting theirs.

As your stepkids catch onto this game, you'll find they start to ask for your opinion. When you offer your opinion, and listen to theirs in non-judgmental ways, you increase trust among you and end up with a far better relationship. These conversations should be entirely neutral--you just want to start them thinking on how they should act as they move through the world.

Give this idea a try today, or use one of the other 98 ideas we thought up to strengthen our stepfamily.

Author's Bio: 

Our stepfamily gathered all these ideas into one electronic book, so you don't have to get them one at a time--simply visit to purchase all 99 ideas. In only moments, you can download these ideas and get started strengthening your stepfamily relationship.

What's a strong stepfamily worth to you? More respect from the kids, more support from your spouse, more lasting connections in those between-times when the kids aren't physically with you. Fewer arguments, fewer tantrums, fewer rejections.

Listen, your stepkids don't know you very well. They might think you're trying to take over, or replace their mom or dad. Just be yourself, work hard on reaching out, and let them see you're not interfering. Make your stepfamily relationship about YOU and the KIDS, not anyone else.

Give the ebook "99 Things To Do With Your Stepkids (When They Don't Live With You)" a try today. You'll be so glad you did.