I hear the same story time and again; “the kids liked me until I married their father.” So why is it that marriage often serves as the trigger, transforming once charming children into sullen stepkids? Many parents mistakenly believe that because the children are happy about the courtship that they will be happy about the marriage. They’re surprised to find that the kids no longer want step-mom-to-be included in family outings or special occasions.

It’s likely that in the beginning you did things for your spouse’s kids hoping that they would like you. Naturally, in your eagerness to be accepted, you planned fun activities, stocked your kitchen with kid-friendly foods and maybe spent money on gifts and entertainment. What child wouldn’t like that? Your role was not as an authority figure, or even as a member of the family. You were new and exciting. More important, if you’re anything like dad’s other girlfriends, you are also temporary.

As time goes by, you may have settled into a relationship with the children that resembles that of a distant relative; they treat you with respect and courtesy, but you don’t assert authority over them. This is about the time the kids begin to realize that you’re not going away. No matter how long their parents have been divorced, kids hold on to hope that the family will be reunited some day. That fate is sealed with the announcement of your engagement.

So, how can you get the kids to stop seeing you as the obstacle standing in the way of their fantasy reunion? Here are five tips to having a respectful, peaceful relationship with your new stepchildren:

1. Validate their desire to have their parents back together. Let them know that it’s very normal and it doesn’t hurt your feelings.

2. Tell them you know they already have a mother and you are not attempting to replace her. Let them know that you would like to be a part of their lives in a way that is helpful to their mom and dad, not hurtful. You, your spouse and the children should decide together what your role is and by what name they will refer to you.

3. Let them know that you don’t expect them to love you, but you hope they will some day. Tell them that it will take time and that you are willing to take it slow. If you love them, tell them so. If not, don’t lie! Kids can see right through that.

4. Encourage your spouse to spend time alone with his kids. As the new love, he naturally lavishes attention upon you. Giving the children that same undivided attention will assure them that they are still as important as always. It also conveys that you are confident in your relationship and that you are not insecure.

5. Probably the most important thing you can do to earn the trust, respect and love of your stepkids is to genuinely befriend their mother. She can be your greatest ally. Ask for her help getting to know her children better. In doing this, you demonstrate that you respect her role (along with your husband’s) as their primary caregiver.

Next time, learn how to handle discipline in your new stepfamily so that you aren’t the bad guy creating new restrictions and expectations.

Author's Bio: 

Angie Blackwell, Certified Stepfamily Foundation Coach and founder of Blackwell Family Resources, LLC helps newly remarried parents establish strong stepfamilies that last! Her individualized coaching program, “Stepfamilies InSync ©”, honors your family’s unique character by incorporating your values and building on your strengths. She covers everything from mundane, daily routines to questions you never thought you’d be answering. Find more of her down-to earth advice and recommended resources at www.blackwellfamilyresources.com