My head began to pound as I listened to the children arguing again. My husband, Randy, and I had been married only a few short months, combining our two families of four children, ages two – ten. I knew there would be challenges but I believed our love for each child would be enough to make up for the hurt and loss of divorce.
I was wrong.
My stepchildren, Payton and Adrianne, didn’t want another mother. They had one already whom they dearly loved. I was simply the woman who married their father, now forcing them to share him with two other children.
My love for Payton and Adrianne didn’t come naturally. I experienced impartial feelings toward my own children, creating barriers with my stepchildren. The emotional strain I felt every day was overwhelming as I sought to unconditionally love and accept each child.
I began asking myself, “How can I create a stable relationship with my stepchildren when the odds are stacked against me?”
After several months of struggling to understand my role, I began to discover ways to make my step-parenting job easier. I learned many lessons the hard way but believe we can take steps toward successful relationships by following these strategies.
1. Be realistic with your expectations, particularly in the beginning. Most stepchildren do not want a stepparent. They need a great deal of time to form a loving relationship. Be prepared to face opposition, but don’t take everything personally. Sometimes, a stepchild’s misplaced anger is directed at the nearest target.
2. Make your marriage a priority. Set aside time and continue to nurture your marital relationship. When the going gets tough with the children, find solace in your mate.
3. Move into a disciplinary role slowly. Give your stepchild time to trust and respect you before taking a strong disciplinary approach. Let your spouse take the lead with his/her children to prevent hostility or resentment as you form a relationship with them.
4. Take care of yourself – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Maintain a reasonable schedule that allows time for hobbies, physical exercise and mental stimulation, along with rest and solitude. Step-parenting is emotionally exhausting and must be coupled with activities that provide enjoyment, replenishment, and reward.
5. Above all else, seek the Lord, with prayer and perseverance. Never give up on attaining a harmonious relationship. Look to the Lord during times of discouragement and dissension. Memorize encouraging Scriptures you can draw strength from during crises. Remind yourself that time has a healing effect and good relationships develop slowly.
Stepparents can play an important part in guiding and nurturing stepchildren. It’s a challenging, but rewarding, role.
Affirm your value as a stepparent today and celebrate the opportunity you’ve been given to make a difference in a child’s life.