An Adult Step-Child’s Understanding of Stepparenting
I was a stepchild, I can tell you from first hand experience, that “step” relationships can be some of the most trying we face as social animals. Often times, children enter stepfamilies with a history of loss and change which is beyond their control. They may have endured a troubled, possible abusive marriage and or the painful death of a parent. In either case the family structure has been changed dramatically. In many cases, the will wonder if they are somehow to blame for events which have changed the family dynamic.
Some children feel that they are unworthy of their parent’s love.
Many children assume that they are responsible for the absence of their parent. Many children believe that their misbehavior may have been the reason. The child’s subsequent lack of feeling worthy, can cause children to behave or misbehave, in different ways. They may withdraw from activities with friends and family, they may even think things like, “How can anyone love me, my own parent didn’t even love me?” Children may misbehave because they are angry with themselves. One method of helping the child deal with his or her feeling of guilt is, for the adults (parents) to visit with the children right away.
Discuss the changes and how they may affect everyday life, and provide them with non-judgmental information about what is happening in a straightforward way. Do not underestimate your child’s ability to understand that changes are occurring. Common sense dictates, that you don’t tell them all of the messy details, but a clear explanation that is age appropriate, of the situation which includes the assurance, that the child did nothing wrong, you could possible and your Dad/Mom and I will always love you. No matter where we are or what we are doing.
Guilt can also consume a child if they feel disloyal to one biological parent. A child who likes or enjoys the company of their stepparent feels disloyal to their biological parent this is not an uncommon occurrence.
The accompanying guilt may be a contributing factor in a child’s behavior toward a stepparent and can cause the child to then push the stepparent away or remove themselves from situations that may otherwise be enjoyable.
Adults often believe that “children are young and resilient so they’ll bounce back.” Children are swept into the turbulence of divorce or death and the drastic changes that follow, and into the dating and remarriage of their parents. They have no control over any of these events that are having a major effect upon their lives and they feel helpless and angry.
Although children are more flexible than adults are, their adjustment to a new situation depends on how they are helped through this potentially traumatic time. For the stepparent to have a healthy relationship with their stepchild, they must recognize and understand the child’s feelings and what motivates the child’s behavior.
Ordinarily, children have little or no choice in the matter of a divorce, nor do they have a choice in the events that follow. This felling of powerlessness is likely to interfere with their confidence and sense of security. Children, like adults, need to feel they have choice and control in their lives. The lack of these two important factors, choice and control, can lead to problems in a multitude of different areas from behavior to emotional disorders.
To help children feel as though they have some personal power, it might help to give them as many choices as possible for different aspects of their lives. Giving children choices like selecting
what they want to eat for breakfast, what they want to wear, or how to spend their allowance may help the children see that they do in fact have some control, which in-turn may help eliminate or lessen their feelings of powerlessness and helplessness.
Children also need to be included in discussions about new rules, family activities, etc. Even though adults may have the final say, children’s needs should be heard and considered. Empower the child by showing them that their opinion has value.
Children develop a deep sense of commitment to their family, especially to their parents, and we teach them .