1. They Didn’t Choose Their Parents.
It’s true. None of us chose our parents. We were born into whatever situation existed and the parents who gave us life made choices for us — good or bad.
In the lives of most stepchildren, their ability to control what’s happening around them is painfully limited. Whether mom and dad broke up when they were too young to even remember a family unit or they broke up after years of being together as a family, the choice to lose that family dynamic was never up to them.
Every stepparent needs to fully understand what it’s like inside their stepchild’s world. It’s a world of constant adjustment, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Whether your stepchild is shuttled between mom and dad half of the time, part of the time or, in some cases, rarely sees one parent, it causes a constant kaleidoscope of confusing feelings for a growing child.
No matter how hard everyone involved works to make a visit or custodial transition easy for a stepchild, it’s never going to mend that void of not having mom and dad truly together as a functioning couple.
The mistakes your stepchild’s mom and dad made are in the past but it’s a history that your stepchild never chose and must come to terms with.
We all know that many kids just want to see their mom and dad together. It’s two halves of themselves. It matters to their identity and sense of self-worth. Even when a child knows their parents will never get back together they’re still going to seek acknowledgment from the two people who created his or her life.
Life doesn’t always work out the way we wish it did. Life isn’t fair. Stepchildren know this all too well. Remember compassion.
2. Someone Has To Be The Enemy.
For those stepparents really struggling with terrible behavioral issues or just plain meanness coming from their stepchildren, I feel for you. It sucks.
When you hear people say, “I could never be a stepparent, I don’t know how you do it,” believe them. Plenty of adults on this planet could not handle the bravery needed to make step-parenting successful.
As a stepparent, you wear many hats — more than most people realize. You need to be diplomatic, responsible and love unconditionally in the face of rejection. Many people can’t do that.
But there is another hat a stepparent will sometimes wear. In every story there’s usually a bad guy, a villain and a reason why all the good things fell apart. Many times, this role will go to a stepparent.
This is especially apparent if a stepchild had a functioning family unit with both parents for a long period of time before the stepparent came along.
It’s not personal. I know it totally seems like it is but it’s not. I promise.
I’m not saying you should put up with being disrespected, but your stepchild or stepchildren may have serious issues to work through regarding their mom and dad. This is their journey based on choices that were made by the adults they love.
If you’re committed to being a supportive step-parent you may have to endure a period of time — even years — where you’re the enemy and the reason mom and dad aren’t together, even if that’s not the case. (There will also be times when mom or dad play the enemy as well, so don’t feel too alone.)
Luckily, there are wonderful new stepparent forums, coaching, and resources becoming available to stepparents these days that can help. Hang in there. Remember patience.
3. They Feel Lost.
As I mentioned before, your stepchild sees their two biological parents — mom and dad — as two halves of their entire being.
Even if one biological parent is not involved in your stepchild’s life, their very existence is important to how your stepchild forms their sense of identity.
If mom and dad can’t get along or your stepchild feels rejected by one or the other, this can trigger low self-esteem or even anger issues.
This is where your job as a stepparent comes in. Though you can never replace mom or dad, you can be a parent, a guide, and a teacher. You can be a stable force for a child who, above all, just wants to be loved.
The bottom line with parenting and step-parenting is that we all need to act like adults. This means curbing negative comments, taking responsibility without resentment, and putting children first before our own disagreements or grievances.
Try and remember a time when you were a child and felt lost and confused. Remember understanding.
More from Michelle: 6 Life Lessons I’ve Learned Being A Stepmom
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