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Sadly, nowadays so many children are stepchildren. Divorce rates have skyrocketed. Children of divorce often feel like they don’t quite belong at home with the custodial parent and they really don’t feel at home with the noncustodial parent. After all, they will not be there very long. They are only “visiting.”

My husband and I had been married two years when his thirteen year-old son came to live with us. I also had a son, twelve and a daughter, nine. My son was very used to having his own room and hated the idea of having to share it. We didn’t have a choice. We were limited by space.

Every night we had a talk with my stepson. We told him he was part of the family, he had responsibilities and rewards just like the rest of the children.

My stepson felt like things were not fair. Well, yeah, life wasn’t fair. He was at a tender age and hurting. I could understand that. Try to remember being a kid. They have these huge emotions and everything meant the world was going to end. He was sullen and would cry. I’m glad he did. Otherwise, we would have had a hard time knowing how unhappy he was.

Here are some tips I’ve heard over the years.

· Do treat them as part of the family
because that is what they are.
· Do not forget about the other members of
the family. In our case, the son moved in
with us and his two biological sisters
stayed with their mother in another state.
· Do give them their own space. Even if
they cannot have their own room, make
sure they have their own bed and space in
the dresser and bookshelves.
· Do put their pictures up on the wall and
that of his other siblings. Just because
they don’t live with you doesn’t mean
they aren’t part of the family.
· Do encourage them to make friends and
invite them over.
· Do let them make part of the
bedroom “theirs.”
· Do tell them to feel at home, because
they are.
· Learn to read their body language. They
will “speak” differently than what you
are used to.
· Listen to them and note their tone of
voice. A higher pitch is always a good
sign that something may be wrong.
· Keep to routines. Don’t let them think
you are changing things just because
things have changed.
· Learn to bite your tongue. Remember the
child doesn’t have much say in his/her
life.
· Breathe deep. This too shall pass and
your stepchild will be out on his or her
own in no time.

I’ve been guilty of not doing some of these but in general, it does get easier. Give the situation a year. It takes about that long for things to settle down. The time will go faster than you thing. Enjoy being given the opportunity to help a child live a better life.