Getting married is the easy bit – but staying happily in the marriage with stepkids around is never an easy task. We have to realise that stepchildren are in a state of transition after parents decide to go their separate ways or after the loss of a parent. They could become fiercely attached to one parent and resent the presence of another person in that parent’s life. We spoke to Dr Gopa Khan, who told us what challenges stepkids can pose and how best to tackle them.
Why Stepchildren Issues Happen
When there are stepchildren in marriage, the first thought that comes to mind is whether the children would accept the new parent. Once that hurdle is passed, and essential acceptance happens it’s the beginning of a constant process of understanding, love and compromise that sometimes becomes a stressful and challenging process if people are not on the same page. We jot down the reasons that lead to stepchildren issues.
1. Different parenting style
You might find that your partner is going overboard in pampering his kids by taking them to expensive restaurants and buying them whatever they ask for. He does this usually out of guilt that he broke up the family. On the other hand, you want to see more discipline in the house. At times like this, you will find yourself dealing with a spoiled stepchild and his tantrums. He could start resenting you as well. To avoid such situations, you need to have a talk with your partner and come to a consensus about how to behave with the kids.
It could be that both of you have kids of your own. In such cases, you have to be very cautious that you are not favouring your children over your stepchildren. Children understand when favouritism is happening, and if they feel so, then they tend to make the home environment very chaotic with their mood swings.
3. Kids don’t get along
Just because you love your new partner, it does not mean that your kids and his kids will also love each other and exhibit sibling bonding. Many times the children don’t get along. It cannot be resolved in a day. One way to work on it is by making the kids be with each other even before you tie the knot so that they get used to each other.
4. You don’t have time for kids
Marriage with step kids means that you cannot just spend time with each other – you need to be attentive to the kids as well. You cannot forget that the children have gone through the trauma of seeing the parents separating and also a new parent in the house. It can adversely affect them and can come out in the form of tantrums. So, you need to find time for the children.
5. The ‘ex’ poisons their mind
The ex-wife or ex-husband can create problems by making stepchildren pick sides. Parents must handle the situation maturely. If they see their parents and respective spouses treat one another with courtesy, it is but natural that children will tread the same path.
Related Reading: How Do I Cope With My Husband’s Deep Friendship With His Ex Wife?
How do stepchildren react?
Stepchildren have to go through a lot of adjustment. First, they see their parents separating or in case of death have to deal with the trauma of losing a parent. Then they have to adjust to a new home with a new parent. So often they carry a lot of resentment and anger within them. They could be throwing tantrums and misbehaving. These are the reasons why they react in the way they behave.
1. They feel let down
A second marriage with stepchildren means that you have to deal with kids who feel let down. It is traumatic for kids to experience a change in family dynamics. Due to this, they can become mean. When this happens, both of you need to explain to them that this was a choice that both of you made together, and such behaviour is unacceptable.
2. They feel scared
If the children are very young, then they think resentful if a new parent is introduced suddenly. As Dr Khan tells us, “I had a young client, who was very fearful of her stepmother due to the fairy tales about evil stepmothers. The child then had to do several bonding sessions with her new mom to become comfortable.”
3. They pick sides
When children find that biological parents are not getting along, they choose teams. Due to this, they might want to spend more time with one parent than the other, and hence the ‘new home’ that you are creating can become chaotic.
4. They create monetary issues
Dr Khan feels that if the children are older then, out of resentment, they can develop issues concerning money, inheritance and elderly abuse.
9 Tips To Work On Your Relationship With The Stepchildren
It is possible to deal with a situation when stepchildren are not getting along with a step-parent. You have to keep in mind a few factors when you are interacting with them.
1. Keep your expectations under check
Don’t think that just because both of you got married, the stepchildren will immediately warm up to you. Build a relationship with them slowly with a lot of love and patience. For example, Dr Khan, at present, has a client who is finalising her stepdaughter’s marriage and has an excellent equation with her stepdaughter.
2. Keep channels of communication open
Your stepchildren might not immediately come up to you to share their insecurities and emotions but rather go to the biological parent. But you should always keep the channels of communication open with them.
3. Don’t try and replace the other parent
Dr Khan tells us, “An 8-year-old child told his father ‘He was not his boss’ and used to have temper tantrums if he was taken to task by his stepfather. The child felt only his parents had the right to correct him and not an ‘Uncle’.”
Don’t try to replace the other parent. Just because you got married it does not mean that they will accept you as a parent and forget about the one who birthed them. Rather, create a new bond with them – may be one of deep friendship.
4. Show that your spouse and you are together
There might come a time when the children will complain about you to the other parent. This is the time when both of you will have to show that you are a couple and you are in this together.
5. Be humorous
A lot can be achieved with humour because if the kids see that you are fun to be with, then, they will want to spend more time with you.
For this, you can go out for a movie together, play board games at home or even enjoy cooking together.
6. Know what the children like doing
You might know your spouse well, but that doesn’t mean that you know the kids well as well. So, find out what exactly they like doing and include those activities in your schedule. They need to believe that you are there for them.
7. Bring some changes at home
The children get used to seeing the house is decorated in a particular way. This reminds them of the times before they saw their parents’ divorce. So, when you, the new person, comes into their house, they can feel offended. This is where your spouse needs to help out by changing the way the house looks, develop new family traditions or maybe even move into a new apartment.
8. Allow the biological parent to spend time with the children
Don’t try and overdo things by always wanting to spend time with the stepkids. Instead, find your circle of friends who you can be with. This will give the biological parent time to be with his children alone. Don’t feel that by not being with your step kids, you are doing something wrong.
9. Seek professional help
There will be times when things won’t seem fair, but you cannot give up. However, despite a considerable period and all your efforts, if you are unable to develop a rapport with the step kids, then it is best to seek professional help. After all, you married to be happy and not face constant children issue.
Remember that you won’t become ‘one big happy family’ in a day. This needs a lot of time – maybe even years. For this, you have to have patience and keep working at it.