Life is crazy, hectic and often more than a little bit overwhelming. Toss in a new marriage and a few unfamiliar kids, and your long-term goal of a happy, well-adjusted family can quickly seem about as attainable as low gas prices.
Before you work yourself into a stress-induced tizzy, take a deep breath and spend some time simply getting to know your new stepkids like you would do with any new friend. It doesn't have to be anything fancy -- a stroll through the local mall is often enough to loosen up a kid and get her talking. Take the opportunity to learn her likes, dislikes, the names of her friends and other basic information. You have to start somewhere, right?
Jessica Lacy, stepmother to two teens in Atlanta, insists that the tried-and-true methods of family bonding have worked nicely with her new brood. "We do the same things that all families do -- cook together, go to movies, take the dog to the park, go to church, take family vacations," she said. "I do make an effort to participate in things that are important to the kids, and I make it clear to them that I love them and their father, that I am here for whatever they need, and that I have the best interest of our family at heart."
Making extra, yet natural efforts to bring the family closer together is one of the best ways to foster a comfortable, open relationship with even the most resistant stepkids. Be patient and realistic in your bonding goals, though. Miracles don't happen overnight.