I talk to stepparents all the time who blame themselves for the poor relationship with their stepchild. “If only I had more patience with my stepchild, if only I had more time to spend with him, if only, if only, if only.”
The truth is, it probably wouldn’t matter if you were the perfect stepparent. You might still have a disjointed relationship with your stepchild.
That doesn’t take you off the hook. It’s important that you seek to have a loving, meaningful relationship with your stepchild and continue to work toward that. But it also helps to recognize that you don’t control the whole picture.
Your stepchild has other people and circumstances that influence his or her relationship with you. Here are the most common ones:
- If the biological parent in the other home is discouraging a relationship with you as the stepparent, that affects your relationship.
- If your spouse isn’t supporting you in your stepparenting role, that affects your relationship.
- If your spouse is a passive parent and you step into the parental role too soon, that impacts your relationship.
- If your stepchild has lost their biological parent to death, there are likely ghosts in the closet that affect your relationship.
- If the biological parent in the other home is dysfunctional, your stepchild feels pulled toward that parent, which naturally affects your relationship.
- If you married while your stepchildren were in their teen years, that can negatively affect your relationship because they’re more interested in seeking independence than bonding with new family members.
- If you had a short dating period with your partner, it’s likely your stepchildren didn’t have enough time to process their feelings of loss, which will impact your relationship with them.
After we had been married several years, my two girls had bonded well with my husband and began calling him Dad. I was jealous of the relationship he had with his stepdaughters because it looked different than the relationship I had with my stepchildren. I was convinced I was doing something wrong. I didn’t realize the variables affecting my stepchildren—like a mom who discouraged a relationship with me—that kept them at a distance.
We try to do everything right as a stepparent. We think that will create the relationship we’re seeking. The reality is, we aren’t responsible for and cannot change many of the variables that influence the relationship with our stepchild.
Time is on your side. Keep pressing on as a not-so-perfect stepparent and you’ll see rewards down the road.
Have you seen rewards on your step-journey? Share them with us!
Pic by Stuart Miles