One of the most difficult aspects of being a stepparent can be providing stepchildren with constant love and attention while showing respect for the children’s relationship with their absent parent. Stepparents often handle a lot of the everyday parenting responsibilities, but may not get much credit for their efforts. In spite of the somewhat thankless nature of the position, most stepparents continue to settle for taking a back seat to the natural parent in the eyes of the children because they know that it is good for the kids to be able to look up to both of their parents with love and respect.
Understanding the Parent/Child Bond
In childhood, there are few connections more important than the parent/child bond. Kids learn their first lessons about love and respect from their parents and the result of their parents’ behaviours can either enhance or squelch the developing sense of self-esteem and confidence in children. Stepparents cannot and should not try to compete for their stepchildren’s love, but they can fulfil their role as a loving and influential adult in the lives of the children. It isn’t always easy to knowingly try for second place (especially in cases where the children’s absent parent is barely deserving of respect), but by honouring the children’s feelings, stepparents can help them to grow up to be emotionally healthy people.
Honouring Children’s Feelings
Children often feel torn when their parents are not together, wondering if they are hurting one parent by expressing their love for the other. Both natural parents, as well as any stepparents, should do all that they can to alleviate the children’s feelings of guilt, assuring them that they are allowed and encouraged to express their emotions freely. Today’s kids have enough on their minds without worrying about how their feelings are impacting the important adults in their lives. Childhood should be, as much as is possible, a time for kids to learn and grow in an environment of caring support.
Teaching Kids by Example
Experts agree that the best way to teach children is to lead by example, and that is especially true when showing them how to handle difficult or awkward situations. Stepparents may not always have a great deal of respect for their stepchildren’s absent parent, but the children shouldn’t be raised in an atmosphere of battling adults. Learning to interact with the children’s absent parent in the most respectful way possible is beneficial for everyone – it makes life easier in the short term and provides the children with a fine example of strength and integrity, helping them to make sound decisions about their own behavioural choices as they grow and mature.
Earning and Deserving the Respect of Stepchildren
It sounds simple enough, but kids, like the rest of us, tend to respect those who most deserve it. They may enjoy being around someone who is always fun or agreeable, but in the long run, children will love and respect those who take the time to show them how to live well. Stepparents who express their affection for their stepchildren while offering them reasonable guidelines will earn a place in the hearts of the children. Sometimes, stepparents may need to avoid outward displays that reveal their true feelings about the children’s absent parent, but in the long run, behaving in ways that enhance a sense of calm and family harmony will provide stepchildren with the gift of a happy childhood.
I've been with my boyfriend for 6.5 years now. My children are grown but he has a now 11 year old son. His mother sold him to my bf for $10,000.. signed over her child like he's nothing. My boyfriend isn't hurting financially so it was worth it. She only seen him the first weekend of the month even if we offered more. She had him a total of 70 nights out of 365. She's got multiple personalities and she's very delusional.. I've called the cops on her twice for attacking my boyfriend while holding his then 5 year old.. she tried attacking me one day in my kitchen..she did it in front of the 5 year old who is her bio child. I raised him for 5.5 years almost completely alone cause my boyfriend was always working. This boy had structure, rules, chores, discipline and love.. now he's very rude, disrespectful,mean, and he lies constantly.. He had come home from school on a Monday with marks all over his face, neck and back. I had my tape recorder on since he lies on me so much. He said a kid at school done it.. Wednesday he went to his egg donors and she called DCFS and cops on me. She had him tell this story that I smacked him over twenty times and that's where the marks came from. She threatened me and cussed me and posted lies on Facebook with my name and everything.. I was proven innocent after two miserable months of waiting. Now my boyfriend used to be very good to me but since last year he has been very mean and hurtful. He pays her to take their son on weekends or she refuses to take him. They. never leave her apartment so what's the money for really? He put internet in his name and pays for it at her place. They both have thrown me out of parenting the child after doing it alone all these years. He goes over there for up to two hours and lie to me but says that's not cheating. They get along perfect now and my boyfriend and I don't so much. I was so in love with him I did anything for him. Now I'm not even sure if I'm in love with him or not.. that saddens me greatly.. the boy has no rules,chores,structure,discipline,or any emotional support.. so can anyone tell me why this is. He beats his head on stuff,pulls his hair, cusses like crazy, screams,cries,hits his face and acts insane. What do I do
CCizzle - 18-Sep-17 @ 8:13 PM
@J - I only say this because I've been through it. My son hated his stepfather all through the years we lived together, from when my son was aged five to 13. We then split up and my son readjusted when we lived alone. I had a couple of other relationships and he was always jealous or over-protective of me, so every relationship I had he'd act up in some way or another. Not ideal, I know. As it was, I didn't have another relationship (not through choice, just because I never met anyone I really liked again) and my son was fine, apart from the usual teenager rebellious problems. The thing is, ironically his step-father and I remained friends and he began to have a much better friendship with him and now they are like father and son. My son is now 22 and we have chatted a lot about that time and he said all through his childhood and when me and s/f were together he always felt pushed out and a nuisance. I was always told to go off and play, or to go and do something. I obviously didn't realise this. He said he felt unloved and unwanted. I was shocked by this. I had found it tough to balance both their needs and felt always divided and stuck in the middle. From the perspective I am at now, I am glad our relationship ended and that my son had me as a proper mother for the latter half of his childhood. I hate to think his childhood was miserable because of my relationship with someone else, my child will always come first in my book. I can't give you advice, but to say kids are fragile and vulnerable and their frustrations come out in different ways. But in retrospect, I wish I'd have concentrated on my son more. The relationship has stood the test of time as a friendship, which is good. But my son is always my son and I want to have an ongoing solid and strong relationship with him, so I am glad that things worked out this way and I worked on my relationship with my child as he's a rock. You may have a difficult choice to make. As a woman, it's hard, we have to be all things to all people, but it is not possible all the time. If your partner is a good man he will understand. The fact your daughter is normal outside your relationship with him means your daughter has serious issues regarding him, who you fundamentally listen to (him or her) is your choice. Best of luck. <3 Hel.
Hel - 8-Sep-17 @ 10:39 AM
Im not sure how to reply to your response on here Hel. Thank you very much for replying. Hopefully this is it.When he is not there she is full of fun. Lively, happy and vivacious.She always does well at school and has is liked by teachers and pupils.Nobody would imagine or believethere's this massive problem at home.I was very sympathetic and gentle with her for the first few years.At some point I gradually became more and more resentful and frustrated.Am I really going to let a child control my life in this way?I feel totally powerless to change this though.
J - 7-Sep-17 @ 3:01 PM
@J - poor you. Apart from talking to her and trying to tell her that she is upsetting you by her actions, you need to ask her why she is doing this and what she is getting from it. Your anger towards her wont be helping either, she is festering on this situation and as she hits teenage years it is likely to worsen. You'll just have to continue to keep them apart. What is she like when he is not there? Is she normal? It might be that she just really doesn't like him and we're all entitled to think that about someone. Hel.
Helen78 - 7-Sep-17 @ 11:33 AM
I am mum to 2 daughters , 9 and 12.I have brought them up completely on my own as their natural father has severe mental health problems .He left the home and marriage when the girls were 6 months and 3 years old.Due to his problems , and the fact that he remains in bed until 5pm every day he has never had the children on his own.However , he has always visited the house as it suits him to see them.He has no other input in their lives except these visits which last at most 2 hours. I have always supported him with his problemsalthough now I am trying to step back and get the doctors to be more active.5 years ago I met someone new.My younger daughterwho was 5 at the time was fine.My older daughter who was 7 when we met and is now 12 has spent 5 years, yes 5 YEARS ! refusing to speak to him and will not even look at him or answer a direct question.This has ruined my relationship with her as I am so angry with her.I arranged for her to speak to a counsellor at relate at which she sat in a rage and refused to speak, so we could not proceed.I have obviously spent much time over the years trying to discuss with her what is wrong and being worried and sympathetic about what is confusing or upsetting her.She will not speakexcept to say I hate him.She will not elaborate.We do not live togetherand he visits at weekends.He continues to try to be friendly , but after 5 years the strain i showing.We can no longer go for days outbecause its too distressingdue to my daughters hostility.There is no support from wider family.It seems there is no where to turn for help.