Make them feel at home
Even thought children do not spend all their time with family. They are not guests. They are member of the household. A separate room should be set aside from them if at all possible. If not, a dresser, closet, alcove, or some particular area should be designated as permanently belonging to that child. He or she needs somewhere to park belongings and know they will be there for the next visit. Children will not feel a part of the family if there is no place for them.
Encourage the children to meet friends in the neighborhood. Visiting children, especially those old enough to plan their own time, may feel awkward in the noncustodial home if they do not have friends close by. A wise stepparent might make arrangements during the week for a younger to stop by on the weekend. A word of caution though; some youngsters may see this as your way of getting them out of the house. Done with the right attitude, however, most children will would provide a change of pace and take some pressure off the family.
It might be helpful to encourage the visiting child to invite a friend from home for weekend. This not only puts the child at ease but also confers legitimacy on the new home. Don’t be too upset if the offer is refused. The child may be ashamed of his or her situation, or the youngster might not want to share the limited time available. The visit not only affects the life of the visiting child, it also interrupts the lives of the children living in the home. Both sets of children anticipate the weekend with some uncertainty. The live-in children will have their lives disrupts by having to share time, space, and attention, and they too must be reassured of their value and worth in the family.
Experts agree the most weekend stepchildren are confused about the rules of their new home. Visiting children cannot be expected to conform to the rules if they do not know that they are. On a summer visit to her father’s, Leigh, age, twelve, was caught running through the house. “I told her how much I loved her and enjoyed having her in our home, but running inside the house was prohibited. She pouted for awhile and then came out with a big smile.”
Mike’s three children, Cindy seventeen, Nick fourteen, and Susan eight, live with their mother. Lori has custody of her two active preschool boys. Since Lori’s ex-husband had visitation rights every other weekend, same as Mike, it seemed like a good idea to have all the children one weekend and no kids the next. “It sounded great,” said Lori. “But what a price to pay for that weekend alone, five kids in a two bedroom, one bath apartment.” You never knew what to expect. If Cindy and her mother had quarreled during the week (witch they usually did), she would take it out on Mike and me ruin the whole weekend.
You couldn’t plan ahead because you didn’t know if one or all three were coming. Since Mike moved out, the kids had become spoiled by their mother and no one enjoyed being around them. They argued among themselves, and then spent the remainder of the time pouting or criticizing one another.” Lori finished by saying, “Everything I tried went wrong. His kids resented me and my boys because we were with their father all of the time, and I couldn’t help that. It didn’t get better until we finally sat down with all five and made some basic rules, a clear definition of what wasn’t allowed. The most difficult was when Mike told his kids he wanted them to visit, but only if they could behave in a pleasant manner. Cindy didn’t show up for a month, but now that she’s back it’s altogether better.