By: Susan Adams, M. Ed.
I often hear people in my office say that, “I have tried to love my stepchildren for my partner’s sake but they drive me crazy!
If this is true for you, it is perfectly normal. After all, your stepchildren are from a different family with different habits and rituals. They have a different history and some different values. You can all get along, however. Especially if you can lower your expectations.
A common problem for stepfamilies is the pressure a stepparent feels to love ALL the children. The pressure may come from the stepparent or the biological parent. It may come from both parents who want to make the new family ideal–to make up for all the prior hurts and losses from the previous families.
Love takes TIME to develop. It is OK to expect less of yourself as the stepparent. The problems are not about YOU personally. And, it is important to remember that you married your partner because you wanted to be with him or her. You did not marry to parent the children. At least, I hope not because that expectation would not be likely to be realistic.
Hopefully, love for the children will grow. It may not and that is alright too.
For now, don’t try to force love. Aim at having respect and consideration for the children and hopefully, they will copy your model and treat you the same—eventually.
Take one step at a time. If love grows, it is a bonus-not an expectation.
If you push love, you are apt to cause resentment on all sides. Relax, and get to know your stepchildren. You can’t love them until you know them. Love comes from being able to see the world through the eyes of the person that you want to love.
Did You Know? Absent the pressure of loving your stepchildren, getting to know them can be lots of fun!