If you’ve been married or living with a stepchild longer than six months, I’m sure you recognize the truth in this statement. As much as I wish it to be true, loving a stepchild doesn’t happen naturally.
I talk to stepparents every day and I hear stories of how everybody got along so well until they married or began living together. Then relationships began to change.
It’s not uncommon for a stepparent to begin a stronger role as a parent when stepkids are living in the home, often creating friction in the relationship. And naturally, there’s no hiding who we really are with one another when we live together. Suddenly we begin to see a different side of our stepchild.
What do you do if you feel less than loving toward your stepchild? Don’t panic. And don’t berate yourself for it either. It’s natural.
Give yourself permission to grow a relationship with your stepchild over time. Don’t put expectations around the relationship or define what it’s supposed to look like. Your relationship with your stepchild is YOUR relationship. Don’t compare it to someone else’s or feel guilty for your feelings. Loving a stepchild takes time and effort.
If you’re doing your part to reach out to your stepchild and bond through relationship-building behavior, then accept whatever stage the relationship is at. Some days you might feel love for your stepchild and the next day feel not-so-loving 🙂 But time is on your side and as you build experiences and memories together, love follows.
It may never be the same type of love you have for a biological child. And depending on other variables (age of child, influence of other bio-parent, etc.) there might a degree of distance that you can’t change. But don’t give up. Continue to do your part to grow a loving relationship with your stepchild.
The rewards of stepparenting don’t appear early in the journey. But they’re far more rewarding down the road because you know you earned those rewards–they didn’t happen naturally just as a love for your stepchild won’t happen naturally. But it can happen!
Cherish your relationship today. Not the relationship you wish it were or the relationship you expect it to be next year. Where are you at today? It’s okay if it’s not perfect. Acceptance is the first key to change.
And if you want to grow a deeper love for your stepchildren, accept them for who they are and offer grace more freely for their shortcomings, expecting nothing in return. I know it’s not easy but you’ll be blessed in the process!
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
Other thoughts on learning to love your stepchildren? I’d love to hear them!
Pic by Stuart Miles