After their parents divorce, many children feel an ongoing sense of anger that sometimes worsens when one or both parents forge new romantic relationships, but stepparents should remind themselves that the children’s reactions are not usually meant to be a personal attack, but simply an expression of their discontent that their parents will not be reuniting. Many children harbour a desire to see their parents back together and the presence of a stepparent, no matter how kind, is a daily reminder that their wish to see their family as it once was is not going to come true.
Understanding Children’s Feelings
Children, even those that may seem rather worldly, have a limited understanding of the complexities that adults face, so they often behave in ways that appear selfish or hurtful without meaning to. Kids may lash out in anger that is directed at a stepparent, when they may actually be angry at their natural parents, or even at the situation in general. Children do not yet have the life experience and social aptitude to fully understand how to express their emotions without hurting the feelings of others, but as adults, stepparents must try to avoid letting the thoughtless words of children offend them too deeply. It can help for parents and stepparents to remember back to when they were very young and how enormous their problems seemed at the time. Today’s kids feel things in much the same way, but as they mature and are able to see that there are more than one way to look at things, their behaviour and attitudes are likely to soften.
Helping Kids to Cope with Difficulties
It is hard on kids when their families break up, yet some parents expect their children to cope quietly without having an outlet in which to express their disappointments, hopes, and fears. Children should be allowed and encouraged to share their feelings and to look for ways to feel better about their changing family situation. When given the opportunity to take things slowly, most kids learn to adjust to their new living conditions and may even come to realise that life is better for them than it was while they were living with parents who no longer felt a close bond to one another.
Requiring Respectful Interaction
No matter how much children may be reeling from their experiences, they should not be allowed to behave in ways that are purposefully mean or hurtful. Unwittingly stinging a stepparent by withholding affection or being unable to let go of their desire for their natural parents to reunite is one thing, but blatant disrespect is another. Kids, even young ones, can be expected to treat their stepparent with a reasonable level of courtesy, although they should not be forced to feign affection that they do not yet feel. Given time, most kids develop a warm bond with a stepparent who expresses a sincere and caring attitude, but real love cannot be insisted upon, it must be allowed to develop naturally.
Taking Time for Stress Relief
Parenting is a stressful endeavour and stepparents may have a harder time than natural parents in dealing with the children’s sometimes less than stellar behaviour. When nerves are frayed and the tendency to take kids’ comments or actions to heart threatens to become overwhelming, stepparents should take a bit of time to exercise, socialise, or engage in some other activity that provides them with a bit of relaxation. By taking a step back every now and then to collect oneself, stepparents (and parents, too) can return refreshed and ready to tackle the tasks at hand without looking at the normal difficulties of parenting as a series of personal attacks.
I have been with my fiancé for five years and he has a seven year old for a previous relationship we co parent great with the mother but my stepdaughter use to have respect for me but there has been so much that has happened at her moms and she now screams and yells at me , has no respect for me , when she doesn’t get her way she cry like a 2 year old. My fiancé tries to help with it but seems like it get worse with time
Heather - 14-Jun-20 @ 6:16 AM
This whole step parenting is hard,especialy when th natural parent thinks his children are never wrong.
I have 2 step children 16 and 12 whom i love so much.most of the tme we laugh,play games and watch tv together bt th truth is they dnt like me deep in their heart.
Th problem is wth my husband who doesnt want them to be corrected when thy r wrong.thy are stubborn and most of th tme i gno bt at tmes it hurts me and if i tell my husband he doesnt do anythng usually he shifts th blame on me.most of th tme i cry.he doesnt want me to tok o them when i feel smethng is not ok.my input on anythng involving them is not accepted.
At th end i feel like a second class citizen.
CJ - 29-Mar-17 @ 8:02 PM
I am a father with 3 boys and have been divorced for 7 years. Last year I met a girl with 2 daughters and a son. We started out as friends and the kids got along great. We each got along with each others kids and all was great! My girlfriend and I moved in together last spring and have been living with each other for almost a year. The kids still get along great, but seems to be tension between my 16yr old son and us. My ex (kids mother) does not support my girlfriend and I and has caused many problems with my kids. 2 of my sons want to move in with us fulltime and my oldest (16 yr old) is beginning to resent us because of it. My ex has consistently talked ill of my girlfriend and I and has even attempted to take us to court. She temporarily revoked my time with my kids based on false accusations in her judgement entry. The court later reverted back to the previous parenting arrangements because her claims were retaliatory rather than fruitful and are supporting their wishes to live with us. This has again caused strain on my oldest son. He is beginning to distant himself from my girlfriend and I and won't even talk to us. He's been rude and shows little interest in being around us. The kids all still get along great, but my girlfriend is beginning to feel like she is the root cause of his distantness and last night said she wanted to end our relationship. What she didn't now was I had just bought her an engagement ring and was going to ask her to marry me. The kids knew about it (except my 16yr old because he hasn't been around) and were beyond excited. After telling my oldest he seemed surprised, but didn't disagree or act out. Earlier that day I had a counseling apt with my ex and my oldest and he opened up and told us how he felt. Later that night my girlfriend asked how it went and I told her. She took everything that he had been dealing with over the course of the year personally and decided to end us in an attempt to fix mine and my sons relationship. This was his first counseling apt and have several more scheduled. Now I don't know what to do.
J - 23-Feb-17 @ 4:53 PM
@Caroline - I can tell you now, if he is a decent man he would never put his relationship in front of the relationship with his child. What do you want him to do, abandon his child because of your jealousy? Your approach is selfish. The best way to your boyfriend's heart is to love his child too. Then you can set up a proper family and possibly have his child. The way you're acting, you will be the one to lose out on all fronts. Try and share your love. If you love your boyfriend, then try to love his son too. The child is only five and doesn't deserve this. Jealousy will get you knowhere, but compassion will. Kate.
CathyB - 8-Nov-16 @ 2:27 PM
I met this loving good guy last year November.He has a son who is 5yrs now and i got none.When we first met the issue of him having a child never bothered me until this passed few days.I can not say i hate the child but it feels like the boy is standing on my way to happiness.I just feel this jealousy that why wasn't the one to bear him a child a first born.i used to love him s dearly.this issue make my moods change like a weather.sometimes i which i can leave this relationship coz iam not happy with this but seems like i cannot coz i love him so much and he does aswell.please what should i do about this?Iam really going crazy.
Caroline - 8-Nov-16 @ 9:44 AM
MJ - Your Question:
Hi, I have been dating this man for the past 2 years and he's in the process of getting a divorce. When I met him he had already filled for divorce and was leaving on his own so it's not like I'm the reason for the divorce. The problem I have is his soon to be ex wife is in total denial about the whole thing and keeps on sending him messages and calling him at all awkward hours till he told her he was now with someone and the calls and messages needed to stop unless it was to do with the kids, she did not take that kindly and called me all sorts of names. Now I will be meeting the kids this Christmas and I dont know what to expect, the kids ages are 12, 10 and 6. Other people who have met and know my partner's ex and the kids say the kids are just like their mother and that I need to have a tough skin when dealing with them. Any ideas on how I should behave on our first meeting as I'm very nervous. Thanks
Our other pages such as: Twenty Rules for Being a Good Stepparent, here and of course, Meeting your Step Children for the First Time, here should help answer this question. As the latter article specifies, before meeting a partner’s children for the first time, it can help to know a little about them. Understanding the activities that interest them (even if it means doing a little research!) and knowing a bit about their favourite sports, foods, and celebrities can provide great topics of conversation so that the first meeting doesn’t feel stiff and uncomfortable. One would never dream of going into a job interview unprepared, so it makes sense to plan ahead to have a successful meeting with the children of your significant other after all, the stakes are much higher. However, I think the most important thing is to try and relax, remember they will be as nervous as you. I hope it goes well.
BeingAStepParent - 16-Dec-15 @ 10:32 AM
Hi, I have been dating this man for the past 2 years and he's in the process of getting a divorce. When i met him he had already filled for divorce and was leaving on his own so it's not like i'm the reason for the divorce. The problem i have is his soon to be ex wife is in total denial about the whole thing and keeps on sending him messages and calling him at all awkward hours till he told her he was now with someone and the calls and messages needed to stop unless it was to do with the kids, she did not take that kindly and called me all sorts of names. Now i will be meeting the kids this Christmas and i dont know what to expect, the kids ages are 12, 10 and 6. Other people who have met and know my partner's ex and the kids say the kids are just like their mother and that i need to have a tough skin when dealing with them. Any ideas on how i should behave on our first meeting as i'm very nervous. Thanks
MJ - 15-Dec-15 @ 9:22 AM
@KJ - as specified in the article; when given the opportunity to take things slowly, most kids learn to adjust to their new conditions. As Cass below says there may be a bit of parental-alientation syndrome going on here, but remember emotions will be high and these children are just being loyal to their mother in the only way they know how. They may in the end begin to find it difficult to keep this charade up as it is pretty hard work. Remember also, it must be pretty difficult for them to come into a whole new family, with other children, that is establishing itself quite succesfully. Spanning from that, here will be high emotions here and possible emotions of jealousy regarding your own two children. It may look to them that they are being usurped and their father has changed allegiance. With a bit of patience and time, it hopefully should begin to work out. I'd like to say you'll all end up as one bit happy family - there may be a bit of hard work to do before then, but over time if you keep plugging away at it, and as the article says 'don't take things to heart' then it is quite possible. Good luck.
BeingAStepParent - 2-Apr-15 @ 9:54 AM
@KJ - it sounds like a nightmare situation and only one that can develop over time. It sounds like there might be a bit of parental alientation syndrome going on here, where one parent tries to turn the children against the other, and that includes step-parents. It depends on how much you want your relationship to work with your partner and how important it is to you. If you want to support him fully you will grit your teeth and get on with it for his sake. But if you are really unhappy, with the situation and it is affecting your own daughters then I suggest giving it a deadline, and if things haven't resolved by then perhaps find somewhere else to live. It doesn't mean the relationship is over, it just means you can give each other space. You need to talk with your partner and see what he thinks. I can understand your frustration, because it sounds if they are just incredibly rude.
Cass - 1-Apr-15 @ 3:12 PM
Hi, I have two children aged 10 and 12. My partner has two children aged 7 and 10. He moved in with me and my girls last September. The relationship between my partner and my girls is developing well, my ex husband has supported the girls with the change. My partners ex wife however makes life very difficult. We tried for a year to me to meet his children and it didn't happen. Eventually we met last August but with no support from their mum, they were highly reluctant. Since moving in last September his children have stayed over for four nights - only one of which my girls and I have been here. They have visited during the day at the weekend. I have made a huge effort to welcome them, they have their own bedrooms. I try to give them plenty of space to relax with their dad whilst also trying to steadily build the relationship with me and my girls. In 6 months they haven't once spoken to me or my girls. They answer questions from me - reluctantly - and with disinterest. They try to come into he house with out saying hello and leave without saying goodbye. Whatever room we are in they will go to a different one and will leave if one of my girls or I enter the room. I am finding it exhausting and feel constantly tense when they are here. My girls are finding it hard - it is like having strangers in our house who have no interest in us and make no effort. Their mum continues to very unsupportive, we have asked her countless times for ideas and suggestions to help move things forward and support the children but we get nothing in return. She has criticised me and my children to her children and in emails, however she has never met me! It's not even as I'm 'the other woman'! as my partner and I met after we had both divorced. I am genuinely feeling like despite my total love for my partner I need to move back into a house with my girls and give him and his kids their space again as we seem to be making no progress and I don't see how any of us can sustain this strain in the long term. Any ideas and thoughts would be very welcome. Thanks x