Admitting you have a problem in your blended family is hard
People tend to focus on positive aspects of their lives, and parents struggling to manage the challenges of a blended family are no different. Many are reluctant to talk about their problems with step kids, and it does not help that storybook portrayals of happily blended families like the Brady Bunch and the von Trapp family can make struggling step parents feel like utter and complete failures; either that, or they have married into a family of flagrantly unlovable children. Neither of these possibilities lends much promise for a harmonious blended family life.
When step kids are hard to love
It is not uncommon for new step parents to feel horrible that they cannot dredge up genuine affection for their step kids. When kids act out, and say or do hateful things, few step parents chalk it up to childish displays of frustration, insecurities, or feelings of misplaced loyalties. It is easy to understand how someone might take it personally if their mere presence in the life of this child, the son or daughter of the person they love, seems to elicit rejection, rage, resentment, and revulsion. If you can identify with this scenario, take heart: it is okay if you do not actually love your step kids, or feel about them the same way you do your biological kids. What matters is that you have committed to helping your spouse raise his or her kids within the confines of your blended family. What matters is that you treat your step children with loving kindness, respect, and consideration. Even when they do not deserve it.
Step parents are often stuck in the middle of the blended family
It happens more often than not. Step children who have neither accepted nor adjusted to either their initial family losses or to the changes inherent in the current blended family remarriage, may act out in ways that can put stress on your marital relationship. It is easy to blame the kids for their outrageous behavior, but sometimes the problem lies elsewhere. How your spouse handles problems of discipline is the telling part of whether you actually have a step parenting problem or a relationship problem.
Separate step parenting problems from step parenting problems
- Does your spouse downplay your concerns about the behavior of his or her child?
- Does your spouse refuse to take action to correct problem behavior?
- Does your spouse act as if you are trying to make trouble for the child by expressing concerns?
- Does your spouse choose to believe his or her child and disbelieve you when there is a conflict?
If you answered yes to any of these questions…
Stop confronting your step child about their behavior. As long as your spouse fails to back you up or fails to deal with the problems appropriately, the child will neither absorb your concerns nor make any of the behavioral changes you request. Put the blame where it belongs; with your spouse. Problems with a step child can be less to do with the child and more to do with problems in your marital relationship. If you two cannot find a solution, if your spouse continues to undermine you by dismissing your concerns, or fails to discipline appropriately, the situation cannot get better. Unless you are willing to live with an unruly step child until he or she leaves your step family home, or in a relationship where you receive neither understanding nor respect, seek family counseling with a therapist who is experienced dealing with step and blended family issues.
Blended family advice columns abound with guidance on bonding with step kids, earning their trust, respect and affection. They can only help if you and your step family partner are working together toward the common goal of blending two distinct sets of people into one unified group. If your relationship fails, the blended family cannot succeed. Be sure your blended family is built on a solid grounding of mutual respect, understanding, and love between the two of you. Take care of your relationship, and it will be able to help you achieve your goal. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family Resource Center for coaching.