Step Parents

Ethan always seemed quiet or would flash an angry look when his step-mom was around. He generally was compliant and didn’t cause problems, but dad and step-mom both knew that Ethan didn’t like the fact that his father had remarried. Ethan’s parents had divorced several years ago, and his mom had moved out of state. Ethan, not wanting to move or leave his friends or school behind, had been living with his dad when he remarried.

Anytime his step-mom asked anything of him he would give her “the look”. Step-mom saw this as disrespect and would get angry. She would talk to her husband about his son and ask what he was going to do about it. Dad often felt like the middleman. He loved his son and loved his wife; he just wanted them to get along! He tried to explain to his wife “just give him time, he’ll warm up after awhile”. His new wife felt hurt that her stepson rejected her and that her husband explained what she should do, rather than listening to her feelings. Later he would talk to his son and explain why he should just accept his new wife and try to get along.

One evening before dad arrived home, step-mom told Ethan to take out the trash. “Get it yourself,” snapped Ethan. “Young man, you can’t talk to me like that,” replied step-mom. “Yeah, who’s going to stop me”, said Ethan. Continuing he said, “You’re not my real mom, you can’t tell me what to do.” “I most certainly can”, snapped step-mom. “You take the trash out right now”, she continued. “Get it yourself,” said Ethan who then walked away slamming the door to his room. About that time dad walked in the door, finding his new wife in tears and furious at her stepson.

Scenes like these are repeated in homes across the country. These moments can rock any marriage and certainly strain any stepparent – stepchild relationship.

The following are suggestions to guide stepparent – stepchild relationships:

1. Biological parent and spouse (step-parent) must focus on what each child needs, rather than what they feel like doing or not doing to that child.
2. Stepparents must not personalize their stepchild’s behavior problems. Rather see the stepchild’s difficulty as their own, to work out over time.
3. As the stepparent, focus on nurturing and playful opportunities with the stepchild, rather than setting boundaries or challenging the stepchild.
4. Biological parents should carry out discipline necessary to the child rather than stepparent being in that position.
5. Differences of opinions between biological parent and stepparent should be handled privately. Believe in your spouse and their concerns. Accept feelings and support agreed upon processes to address the child.

While step parenting is difficult because of a lack of biological attachment, it can be successfully accomplished. Be wise in your approach to these difficulties. Lead children, don’t react to them. Maintain a strong support between adults to address children’s lives. Lead them wisely; and they will follow in time.

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