What Is Your Role with the Child Eighteen and Older?

If you were involved in your stepchild's life prior to adulthood, your role may already be set and your interactions will probably continue in a similar vein. You can take your cues from your existing relationship. Hopefully, you will continue to set a good example, be available to converse with your stepchild, be respectful of your partner's relationship with your stepchild, and be considerate of the other biological parent's relationship with your stepchild. If you are entering into a relationship with a partner who has adult children, your role may be minimal — limited to family parties and events. However, as time goes on, hopefully you will try to develop a closer relationship.

Why should I have to worry about getting along with my adult stepchildren? They don't live with us and they have families of their own.

You don't need to let the idea of having a relationship with your adult stepchildren consume you; however, you are involved with or married to one of their parents. Building a relationship with your stepchildren may help you get to know your partner better, as a parent. You may miss out on rewarding relationships if you don't get to know your stepchildren.

Little Things Count

If you rarely see your stepchildren because you and your partner do not live near them, there are many small, fun ways to reach out to them. Ask your partner for their birthdays, anniversaries, and any other special days they may celebrate. Write cards out with your partner for those special occasions and make sure they are mailed early enough to arrive on time. This may not seem important, but it can make an enormous difference. Maybe your partner never sent cards before, and now she is because of your influence. Your stepchildren may really appreciate such gestures. You can also send cards for no particular reason, just to say hello, and to let them know you are thinking of them. This can be a nice way of checking in without being overbearing. With computers everywhere, even often in libraries and hotel lobbies for customers' use, e-mail also can be a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to stay in touch.

When your partner speaks about her children, remember what she says. If it will help you remember, consider writing it down. If she mentions that her daughter used to love going to the nail salon down the street or her son loves maple walnut ice cream, these are nuggets of information you should tuck away in your brain. With this kind of information, you can plan sentimental gifts and get-togethers for your partner and/or her children. For example, if your partner's birthday is coming up and her children are visiting, you could plan a nail date for her and your stepdaughter, prior to having cake and ice cream. Once everyone arrives, be sure to have maple walnut ice cream on hand. Small gestures like this can make your stepchildren feel as though you consider them an important part of their mother's life, and thus an important part of your life.

If your stepchildren are around more frequently, you will have more opportunities to find out their likes and dislikes, and simply be more involved in their daily lives. Small gestures can still be of great importance, and you will have more chances to implement them. As they get older, they may have major milestones, such as weddings, births, job recognition, and other major accomplishments. Since they are now adults, they may indicate how or if they want you involved. Your stepson may decide he wants you to walk down the aisle at his wedding with his stepmother, so his biological parents can walk together. Your stepdaughter may come to you with questions about her newborn since you have experience with newborns. Your role will be in large part determined by the wishes of your stepchild now that he has more of a voice in his own life. Remember, however, that no matter how your role shakes out, you need to always be mindful and respectful of the other biological parent and how he is involved in your stepchild's life.

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