Assuring Stepchildren that You're Not Replacing their Parent
When they first join their new spouse’s family, many stepparents find that their step-kids are hesitant to accept them.
There can be a number of reasons why kids take a while to warm up to a stepparent, one of the most common of which is an uneasiness that their parent’s new partner may be trying to take the place of their other parent.
While it can take a while for the children to fully understand that their stepparent has no desire to usurp their parent’s place in the family, with patience and persistence, stepparents can assure them that they are not a threat.
Encouraging Healthy Family InteractionIn an ideal stepfamily situation, stepparents would work side-by-side with both natural parents to provide the children with happy and healthy family bonds. It is usually not quite that easy for the adults to set aside their differences, though, and in many stepfamilies, the children are made to feel that they cannot love all of the adults because by doing so, they will cause hurt feelings.
While stepparents can try to assure their step-kids that they respect their natural parent’s place in their lives and have to intention of attempting to replace them, they should be prepared for the process to take some time. Kids must learn to trust and respect their stepparent, but once they do, they are likely to set aside their initial reservations and accept that they can build strong bonds with all of the important adults in their lives.
Step-Parenting Kids with an Absentee ParentIn stepfamilies where the children’s other parent is out of the picture altogether, the kids may be especially unwilling to bond with their stepparent. Sometimes, a parent is absent because of their inability or unwillingness to be a responsible parent, but even in such cases, the kids are likely to love and miss them.
When children have lost a parent to death, they may feel that if they were to bond with a stepparent, they would be disloyal to their deceased parent, so they choose to keep an emotional distance. Sadly, these children are often hurting and could benefit from the love and affection of a caring stepparent, if they could only come to realise that loving a stepparent could never take away from the bond that they shared with their lost parent.
No matter the reason that a parent is unable to play an active role in the lives of their children, stepparents who wish to win the kids’ hearts must assure them that they have no desire to be a replacement parent. Telling kids directly is good, but it is even better to show them by encouraging them to talk about their absent parent and finding ways to incorporate that parent into the children’s lives.
Sorting through family photos, assembling memory books, and asking about favourite memories are all ways that stepparents can show their step-kids that they are not uncomfortable keeping the absent parent’s memory alive and have no desire to replace them.