Does your stepchild trust you?

Grace was fourteen when her father, John, married Kate. In his opinion, he had little control over the events that unfolded in his life, including his father remarrying and forming a new family quickly. Although Kate seemed nice enough and really loved her father, it still didn’t seem fair to Grace that her life had to change so radically.

Grace put it this way: “My parents just don’t understand. The day they divorced, my life changed forever, and I had no say. For me, divorce meant changes in where I lived, changes at school and with friends, and having to spend time with new adults I didn’t want to spend time with. Nobody asked me if I wanted any of this to happen, but they did it without my consent and sometimes without warning. ”

Remarrying can resurrect old, unresolved anger and hurt children. For example, it may force the child to give up hope that his or her parents will be reconciled.

The “Exterior” and “Insider” challenge in a family

While no two stepchildren will have the same emotional reaction to a stepfather’s entry into their life, one thing is certain. As a stepfather, you are likely to be a stranger who will gradually gain your respect and trust. This is because the structure of the stepmother family often places parents and stepparents at opposite ends of a continuum when it comes to separation and closeness. For example, every time a stepchild enters a room or a conversation, a biological parent may consider himself an intern and a stepfather an outsider. This happens naturally because children tend to gravitate towards the adult with whom they feel most comfortable, a privileged person, when they seek support or food.

In Survive and thrive in family relationships, the renowned researcher of the stepmother family Patricia L. Papernow, EdD, explains: “The inner / outer challenge arises very quickly in relationships and paves the way for all other challenges. It often remains present, albeit in a slightly softer form, even in well-established stepmother families. “

One of the most crucial things to learn about a close-knit family is this. Most children give love and trust to their parents naturally, but they feel that their stepfather should earn their love and trust over time. In fact, children often do not have time to enter into the new relationship, so communication can feel forced.

That said, it is perfectly normal for a stepchild to distrust a new stepfather and for a stepfather to feel rejected, overlooked, or sometimes jealous. It is a safe assumption that you need to be consistent, present, and interested in your interests and activities. In addition, the biological parent can help your child bond with his or her new spouse if he or she makes it clear that his or her marriage is strong and that disrespect for his or her spouse will not be tolerated.

Stepfather as an adult friend or mentor

Think about the time when you expected to be a stepfather. You may have experienced some excitement at the opportunity, but some concern about the role you would play. Was he confused? There is no instruction manual that comes with being a stepfather. It’s important to decide what kind of stepfather you want to be early. This can help your stepchild adjust to having you in his or her life.

Ideally, the role of a stepfather should be supportive, kind, and a mentor who teaches by example. If you can do it most of the time, you’ll probably gain your stepchild’s affection over time and see you as an asset. If you need to set a limit (such as bedtime or curfew), this will work best if you have established a good relationship and have clearly established your role as an adult in the new family that has authority but listen and take care. . This does not mean that you will always have an easy time or that your stepchild will not challenge you. However, they will be less angry and rebellious if they feel that you are on their side.

Try to show understanding when you think your stepchild might be struggling with the complexities of family life. It is also a good idea to express empathy with your stepchild if your non-custodial parent is unreliable in your visit. Suggest that you do something together, such as cycling or in the park, as a way of showing interest. For teens, just being there for them, expressing compassion, and perhaps playing a video game together will probably be the most effective way to connect.

It takes time to gain the trust of your stepchild

The stepparents must proceed slowly. Keep in mind that disciplining your stepchild before he or she has gained your trust will be a lost proposition. Take the time to get to know the child through shared activities. If you learn the relationship, it may meet your unmet needs that you like, but it could be counterproductive. Divorce children often feel loyalties divided between a stepfather and their parent of the same gender and may react distant or angry.

It’s important to realize that you’re not replacing your stepchild’s other parent. Your role is more of a mentor. Never make your stepchild feel that he or she has to choose between his or her biological parent and you. Over time, all members of the family can create a positive culture together.

Above all, realize that love often comes later between a stepson and a stepfather. Even if you don’t get it right with your stepchild, you can still develop a respectful working relationship. If your stepchild doesn’t heat up right away, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. If you try to understand your stepchild’s feelings, you will pave the way for a future opening in your relationship and this will lead to better communication.

Give it time

Adopting realistic expectations can help you overcome some difficult times in a stepmother’s family. Be patient and try not to react angrily if your stepchild gives you a cold shoulder or is sometimes a little rude. Spending time together, even if it’s about eating a meal or watching a movie, can help you weave the fabric of stronger family relationships and gain your stepchild’s trust over time.

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