Marriage mentoring expert explains visitations with stepchildren

According to marriage mentoring expert remarried couples and blended families can make the most of visits with stepchildren by using several strategies to make visits easier. Creating a personal space for the child, being patient with transitions, balancing time together and time apart and having things to occupy the child’s time will make for a more pleasant summer visitation or holiday visit with a stepson or stepdaughter.

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Finding a Place for a Stepson or Stepdaughter

When a stepson or stepdaughter will have to share a room with a sibling or sleep in the living room, an effort should be made to make a space for the child’s personal items, according to marriage mentoring expert Dawn Miller, “Your Stepchild: This Summer – Your House.” The child should not have to live out of the suitcase.

Miller recommends families make a space for the child’s belongings in a drawer or storage area and create room for personal items in the bathroom. A rolling cart with drawers or a set of covered baskets can be options that are re-purposed after the stepchild’s summer visitation is over. “Do not act like the child is inconveniencing your household by sleeping in a living room,” Miller says.

Marriage mentoring expert explains How to Make Transitions Easier with Stepchildren

With the coming and going of stepchildren, certain patterns may emerge. The child may be cranky or withdrawn after arrival or when preparing to leave. “These visitation changes are really hard on the kids. Try to understand what the kids are going through,” says licensed professional counselor Susan Wisdom in “Preparing for a Stepchild’s Summer Visit,” an article by Lisa Cohn. “If they go to their room, slam doors, cry, or don’t eat, try to be sympathetic… They’re going to feel sad and act angry at times.”

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Depending on how the child behaves, partners can come up with ways to make transitions easier. Perhaps the biological parent will spend some time helping the child unpack or the family will cook a favorite meal together. Creating rituals or traditions around the arrival and departure can reduce stress for the entire family.

Family Time vs. Time With the Biological Parent

One of the hardest things to achieve during a stepchild’s visit is a balance between family time and one-on-one time for the biological parent and the child. Visitations are one of the basic building blocks of a relationship between the biological parent and his or her child, so time alone together is crucial. Preparing for a stepchild’s visit should include the remarried couple sitting down together and planning for times the biological parent and the child will be together.

However, it is important for both partners to spend time with the child in a family setting as well. When one-on-one time totally outweighs family time, the step-parent can feel jealous and abandoned. This is especially true in blended families, Wisdom says, where siblings in the home feel as though they are being left out. “The child is taking the family’s Dad and husband away,” she says. “And, sometimes, the visitors get special treatment from the Dad.”

Keeping a Stepchild Busy

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Blended families with age-appropriate toys, games and companions have a slight advantage for keeping a stepchild busy and active during a summer visitation. But married couples without similar-age children in the home will want to ensure that there is some entertainment for the stepchild like play dates, visits to the playground or storytime at the local library.

To prevent homesickness, allow and encourage contact with the other biological parent. A pre-arranged schedule may work best. “While you don’t want for time at your house to be overshadowed by the other parent, make sure the child knows that he/she can call his/her other parent if needed,” Miller says.

In order to have a pleasant summer visitation or holiday visit with a stepchild, remarried couples and blended families can take several steps to reduce stress in the household. Couples should always create a separate space for the stepson’s or stepdaughter’s personal belongings and a place where the child can go to be alone. Using comforting rituals or traditions will ease transitions. Couples should communicate with each other and balance time together and apart to prevent jealousy during visits with stepchildren. The entire family will benefit when family time is balanced with one-on-one time between a biological parent and child.

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