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Respecting Step Children and Their Feelings

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 25 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Respecting Step Children And Their Feelings

The love and respect that exists between a parent and child seems innate; emotions run deep in families, but warm feelings can take time to develop between children and their stepparents. Fortunately, by offering children sincere warmth and appreciation, stepparents can earn the trust and admiration of their stepchildren.

Honouring Children’s Attachments

Children, especially young ones, are often blind to the shortcomings of their parents. While the unconditional love and admiration that kids offer is flattering, many adults are quite aware that their ex or their spouse’s ex may not be especially deserving of the warm feelings that their children hold for them. Despite having a realistic picture of the children’s other parent, parents and stepparents should never discourage kids from maintaining attachments to all of the important adults in their lives. An exception must be made, of course, if a parent has proven themselves to be a danger to the children; in such cases, parents and stepparents must put the safety of the children first, even if it means having to explain some of life’s harshest realities to their children.

Giving Kids Time to Develop Closeness

It is understandable that stepparents hope that their stepchildren will look at them with love and respect, but it is unrealistic to expect that these feelings be immediate. Just as it took time for a deep and loving relationship to develop between the stepparent and the child’s natural parent, a good stepparent/stepchild bond grows over time. Stepparents shouldn’t try to rush their stepchildren into behaving in ways that are in contrast to the children’s true emotions – to do so is not only unfair, but can actually delay the process of truly growing closer. While it may be a natural instinct to demand a child’s respect, genuine respect is earned.

Expressing a Genuine Interest in Stepchildren

If we think about the people that we feel closest to, they are likely to have a number of things in common. In all likelihood, they are the folks who have shown us, through both their words and actions, that they are deserving of our respect and additionally, they have probably expressed a genuine interest in us and have proven that they have our best interests at heart. Stepparents are often in the unique position of being placed into an important role in a child’s life before either of them has had the chance to fully develop a mutually loving relationship. It’s important for stepparents to make the effort to know each of their stepchildren as individuals, taking the time to engage them in conversations and attend their important events.

Working to Create a Loving Home Environment

Family relationships can be complicated – love and respect are vital to happy households, but since every parent and every child brings with them their own expectations and needs, it can take a while to find a balance that keeps everyone happy. There are steps that parents and stepparents can take to create an environment that is loving and nurturing, though, which can make each family member feel respected and appreciated.

Fostering warmth and respect amongst family members begins with the adults in the household. Kids learn a great deal from observing how the important grown-ups in their lives handle stress, conflict, and adversity, so providing them with good examples is vital. When parents and stepparents show their children that they respect their feelings, they send them the message that they are valuable and worthy individuals, feelings that they will take with them all throughout their lives.

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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
@Alvin - you're right - it's no good if you and your partner are not on the same page, you have to support each other and back each other up in order to get the best out of being a step-parent. Once the kids knows there may be a divide, they will be in there like a shot!
Evie - 22-Dec-17 @ 12:21 PM
I think you've got the answer above - agree with your current partner on a strategy to improve behaviour of all the kids. You might need to agree a set of house rules - and then, importantly, on how to get them accepted. That might mean penalties - pocket money? other privileges? access to the house computer, etc.
Alvin - 25-Nov-17 @ 2:49 PM
My 3 year old daughter and I have recently moved into my boyfriends house.He is the father of an 8 and 6 year old (boy and girl respectively), who live with us 50% of the time each week.They have been primarily brought up by nannies as both their parents work and their mother seems extremely selfish, choosing to spend less than an hour a day with them.When she does, she seems to compensate for her guilt and clearly lets them get away with murder.They are loud, very defiant, seem to have no respect for elders or rules, whine and moan when they don't get their own way and basically try and rule the house - which they succeed in doing.On the flip side they can be very sweet and seem very adaptable.They have adored my 3 year old since we all met and seem to have accepted me.They have even begged for us to get married!However, I am really struggling with their almost feral behaviour.Neither of them listen, at all.I can repeat instructions 15 times to be ignored and probably have the opposite happen.There is literally no respect.It is the opposite of how I have brought up my daughter and I worry now as I see her learning really bad behaviour.She becomes silly when they are around.They encourage her to use bad language and say silly things.I am finding it very stressful.I try very hard to be calm, repeat myself and talk things through.They tell me I should shout at them more as thats what Mummy does but that's not my way.My partner tries his hardest but they run rings round him.They know his threats come to nothing.The little girl responds well to gold stars and rewards but always wants more and goes too far, becoming silly and defiant again.She is never satisfied and mostly throws things on the floor that she has begged to have.It is beginning to damage our relationship and I fear for my 3 year old learning such bad behaviour.I really believe if we put the effort in now we can try and help them be better behaved and learn some respect.I know it will be really tough and we have to introduce consequences and standby them but I do think its worth it.I just wonder if anyone has any guidelines to cope with this behaviour, strategies for improving them.Do consequences work?Any other ideas?I feel its doubly difficult for me as right now they seem to like me but if I go too far and become too bossy or hard on them they might not want to come and stay which will devastate my partner.Help!
Bex - 14-Mar-16 @ 7:02 PM
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