I’ll never forget the day my stepson shot back at me, “You’re not my mom, Gayla. My mom would support my decision.”
I disagreed on an important decision he was making and voiced my opinion. I chose not to respond to his hurtful words and for a few days following, I didn’t feel love toward my stepson.
Does that make me a bad person? No. I’m human. I needed some time to consider what he said and ask God to help me love him, despite my hurt.
I knew there was more behind my stepson’s words than his disagreement. What he was saying to me was, “I miss my mom. I wish she were here so I could have this conversation with her.” But she wasn’t. She had passed away just a short time earlier after a fierce battle with colon cancer. He was reacting toward me in anger to his loss.
It’s not always easy to live with the behavior of our stepchildren and feel love toward them. Here are a few things to consider on those days:
1. Recognize their loss. Stepfamilies are born of loss and your stepchild might be dealing with layers of loss. As they go through life transitions such as adolescence, graduating from high school, etc. their loss is resurrected from years’ past and felt again. Try to be empathetic toward the feelings that are impacting their behavior.
2. Be the adult. Yes, it’s easy to stoop to the level of one attacking you, but someone needs to act like an adult. I’m not saying it’s easy – on more than one occasion I had to withdraw from a conversation to keep from saying something I shouldn’t. But if we say hurtful words back, it compounds the ill effects.
3. Take a time out when you need one. No one expects you to withstand painful happenings without taking time to recharge yourself. Determine what works for you to refresh yourself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe it’s coffee with a girlfriend, a long afternoon walk, or a week-end away with your spouse.
4. Let the biological parent be in the charge. When you’re struggling with less-than-loving feelings toward your stepchild, step back and let the biological parent handle everyday situations. Our emotions get in the way of healthy reactions when we’re hurt, making it more difficult to address misbehavior or parenting decisions.
5. Pray for resolve. Allow God to soften your heart and pray the same for your stepchild. Look past the hurt toward a long-term relationship that’s willing to make sacrifices. It’s not unusual to have days you don’t feel love toward your stepchild. But if you’re in it for the long run, you want to work through those days and seek a long-term loving relationship.
Do you have other thoughts to offer? I would love to hear them.
Picture by Stuart Miles