Blended families are now very common and bring their own unique problems to a relationship. Suddenly instead of just being a couple, you are often a family of six, with your two children and his two or three children.
The children were already grieving the divorce or separation of their biological parents. Now there is a stepparent in their life that they may likely resent.
You may be thinking to yourself, my stepchildren are ruining my marriage!
Children can be confused and angry and often want their own two parents back together again.
They may see the new stepparent as an imposter and may end up causing havoc in the new blended family.
In this article, we will go over some common stepchildren problems and how they may be addressed.
How Stepchildren Can Ruin Marriages
Stepchildren can be confused and angry that the family life they once knew is now gone.
The stepchild may feel very out of control in a situation they likely did not want, which leads to the stepchild’s feelings of resentment towards the new stepparent.
Stepchildren May Feel Jealousy, Sadness, or Anger
It’s common for children to feel uncomfortable with their new, blended family. Below are some common behaviors children may display in a blended family:
- A child may feel their stepparent is at fault for the original family’s dissolution.
- The child may feel less important since their parent now has a new partner to focus on.
- The children may reject the stepparent because they serve as a constant reminder that their parents will never reconcile.
- The thought of having to share their biological parent with their stepparent may make the child feel unhappy, mad, or envious.
- It’s not uncommon for a child to feel resentment toward their step-siblings.
Stepparents’ Parenting Styles May be Different
You and your spouse will likely have different perspectives on parenting in a stepfamily, and that’s OK.
But regardless of your different parenting philosophies, every couple in a blended family should learn to work together as a team as parents, learn to resolve disputes amicably, and work for the greatest results for the children.
Before you remarry, adjust your parenting style. Decide how you will parent as a couple and make any required changes to your parenting philosophies.
Your transfer will go more smoothly, and your children won’t become upset with your new spouse for making adjustments.
If children have positive contact with both biological parents, they will adapt to the blended family more smoothly.
All parents must participate and work together to achieve a collaborative parenting style.
Know each other’s advantages. Instead of concentrating on your differences, think about your unique qualities.
You may effectively deploy each of your parenting strengths by identifying them.
Find a neutral position. Much of the stress associated with parenting will subside after you and your partner are both prepared to make concessions and establish your middle ground.
Although it takes time and patience, the work is worth it. Recognize that neither of you will get everything you desire, but if you can come to an agreement on a strategy that benefits both of you, everyone wins.
Consider taking a parenting class, reading a parenting book, or asking respected, seasoned parents for assistance.
Get the support you require to continue developing into a wholesome and successful parenting team!
Stepchildren’s Behaviors Can Create Conflict Between Spouses
It may occasionally be difficult, frustrating, and overwhelming to raise children in a blended household.
Being able to stick together through some of the difficult situations that might arise with your stepchildren can be a true test of fortitude.
When there are children, maintaining a marriage is challenging. Life is just busier, making it difficult to find time for one another.
Finding quality time as a couple is challenging when some of those children are not your own and may even resent you for being a part of their family.
It’s essential to spend high-quality time with your spouse to keep your marriage strong and functional.
In order to overcome the feeling of exclusion that is so common in a stepfamily, one must let go of hurt and anger and maintain positive thinking and behavior.
With a good level of maturity, tolerance, self-confidence, and perseverance, you can make it work.
Here are some suggestions for stepparenting couples to keep their marriages strong:
- Learn about one another’s parenting philosophies and goals for their kids, and appreciate the variances. While you may place a higher priority on communication and nurturing than your partner does on discipline and structure, neither of you is fundamentally superior, and neither of you has the best solution for all of the kids.
- Instead of criticizing your partner’s parenting, sympathize with your spouse’s difficulties and act as a sounding board for them.
- Recognize the value of safe alone time for biological parents and their kids. Your marriage and your relationships with your stepchildren will benefit from this.
- Maintaining excellent personal health is important. To be a strong and dependable spouse, you must be in good physical and mental health.
- When you can, focus on the positive, acknowledge it, and let go of the unpleasant.
- Recognize that each experience counts for an achievement. While big milestones are acknowledged, it’s as important to acknowledge and value tiny ones.
- Find ways to spend time together every day or night as a pair, and be sure to keep each other informed about both your separate and joint lives.
- Even when you don’t feel like it, maintain your connection and affection. There are physiological justifications for touching, kissing, and physical intimacy that promote closeness and general goodwill.
- Recognize that you are not competitors and that your goals for your family are the same; you simply may approach it or think about it differently.
Acting Out is a Child’s Way of Coping with Their Anger
Children may have feelings of anger and disappointment that the family they once knew is no longer their reality. Some children might act out in a seemingly inappropriate manner as a way of coping with their anger.
Children want to know they can rely on their biological and adoptive parents. Children of divorce have already experienced the disappointment of having their trust violated.
Knowing the causes of a child’s behavior might be helpful. Kids’ anger problems frequently result from their inability to manage their irritation or other unpleasant emotions.
It’s important for the child to know that the new stepparent will not try to take the place of their biological parent who is not living with them.
Respecting the bond between the child and their parents is crucial and shows the child that you as the stepparent have no intentions of rocking the boat.
Allowing the biological parents to be the disciplinarians is recommended in order to prevent the child from resenting the stepparent even more.
Encourage one-on-one time between the child and their biological parents while the stepparent finds something else to do.
Showing the child that the stepparent has no intentions of hogging the child’s parent all to themselves will help the child feel less uncomfortable.
If the child can see that the stepparent is not a threat to them, they will eventually begin to lower their guard and become more accepting of the new blended family.
In the end, all feelings are valid and should never be discounted. Over time, things should settle down.
Counseling is encouraged, however, to assist in the adjustment of your new stepfamily should it seem like more than you can handle.
Dealing With Difficult Stepchild Relationships
As with anything new in life, blending a stepfamily together does not come without its challenges. Difficult stepchild relationships can happen, yet there are helpful ways to address them.
The age of the stepchild will help determine the best way to tackle common challenges with difficult stepchild relationships.
How to Deal with Young and Preteen Stepchildren
Set up enjoyable activities for your family to enjoy together, like a carnival or a fishing trip. If they decide not to, don’t give up. They could take a bit to get comfortable.
Many of the emotions that young children experience may be unfamiliar to them since they are still learning how to express themselves.
If your stepchild misbehaves, exercise patience and try not to take it personally.
Have faith that your stepchild will ultimately come to understand that you pose no harm to them and that they will come to like you.
Encourage your young stepchildren to spend a lot of time with their biological parents alone. They will eventually realize that you are not attempting to replace their other biological parent.
Try your best to establish a good rapport with their other parent. At first, this might not be simple or seem sincere.
However, the youngsters will feel more secure because of your assistance. Even though life is different, the grownups work together.
How to Deal with Teenage Stepchildren
The teenage years can be challenging in any household. Add to that the blended family dynamics, and things could get interesting.
Teenagers begin to naturally distance themselves from their parents as they strive to become independent.
Despite the distance, strive to take the initiative to find methods to get to know one another better.
Suggest doing something enjoyable as a family. Ask your stepchild who is in their teen years what they want to do. Bowling? A film night? Swimming?
Their barriers will eventually come down with time, allowing a friendship to develop.
If your teenage stepchild ever acts disrespectfully toward you, tell their biological parent about it and let them handle it. Your job right now is to establish a friendly connection with your stepchild. If they think you are trying to be a disciplinarian figure, that might not work in your favor.
How to Deal with Adult Stepchildren
Adult stepchildren can have their own adjustments to reconcile with when their parents are remarried. As stepparents, there are some things that can be taken into consideration in an effort to get along with your adult stepchildren.
Adult children may experience emotions such as resentment toward their parent, sadness over their absent or deceased parent, split loyalty, and potentially betrayal or being deprived of their comfortable family life when a parent remarries.
Adult stepchildren need to understand that the stepfamily does not take the place of the biological family and there is no rush to welcome the new stepparent and act in any certain way.
Let things fall into place naturally. Try hanging out at a family barbecue to become more familiar with one another. Hopefully, becoming acquainted started before the marriage and not after to help everyone adjust to the new blended family.
If for whatever reason your adult stepchildren decide they don’t like you, it’s important that your partner (their biological parent) supports you and makes it clear that you are to be respected.
Recognize that an adult stepchild’s aversion to a stepparent isn’t personal. Stepchildren of all ages may attempt to defend themselves from any possible damage they believe their stepparents may inflict since stepparents are frequently seen as adversaries.
It’s quite likely that adult stepchildren don’t despise their stepparent personally; rather, they just worry about the potential influence they may have.
Encourage the biological parent and the adult stepchildren to spend alone time together to help show that you have no plans of monopolizing their precious time with their parent.
Maintain open and honest communication. Even though it might be challenging at first, open and honest communication can greatly reduce incorrect assessments and views.
How to Build a Relationship With Stepchildren Who Don’t Like You
Dealing with stepchildren who have expressed hostility against the stepparent is difficult. So how do you build a relationship with stepchildren who don’t like you?
There are ways to build a relationship with stepchildren who don’t like you as shown below:
- Know that your stepchild sees you as a threat. For this reason, encourage alone time between your stepchild and their biological parent.
- Don’t ever badmouth the other parent. Don’t give your stepchild more reasons to not like you.
- Work to maintain closeness with your spouse daily through loving touch and open communication.
- Allow the biological parent to be the disciplinarian. This will help eliminate additional reasons to resent you.
- Be kind a respectful at all times no matter what. You need to make efforts to not escalate already established tensions making matters even worse.
- Try to find something in common with your stepchild such as a hobby that perhaps you could do together. Bonding over something enjoyable may give your stepchild a chance to see that you aren’t as bad as they thought you were.
- Don’t be the stereotypical stepparent and instead be the nice one. Your stepchildren might be pleasantly surprised that you aren’t how they imagined you would be.
Things to Never Say to Your Stepchildren
Being a stepparent can be hard enough. Don’t make it worse by saying the wrong things to your stepchildren.
Things to never say to your stepchildren:
- Don’t tell your stepchild to call you mom ( or dad). You aren’t their parent, and saying this implies you are trying to take the place of their other biological parent.
- Try not to mention the fun you and your own kids had while your stepchildren were away visiting their other custodial parent. Your stepchildren may feel a bit jealous.
- “Does your mother let you do that?” This comment implies your disapproval of whatever you are referring to, which can lead to the child feeling a sense of animosity toward you.
- Children need and believe it or not want boundaries. Boundaries give a child a sense of security and safety. Never tell a child they can do whatever they want in your home. You want them to like you, sure. But the free reign of the home isn’t how to accomplish that. Nicely establish the house rules upfront so everyone is on the same page.
- Don’t nitpick and nag. Pick your battles and save the constructive suggestions for things that really matter. Also, remember the importance of allowing the biological parent to be the disciplinarian.
- Remember that children in a new, blended family are mourning the family that had first. It’s natural to see them a bit down at times. Don’t interrogate them about their sad appearance, and don’t tell them to cheer up. Instead, be comforting and offer them a bowl of ice cream.
- “When is your mom picking you up?” Children aren’t stupid. If you say something like this to a child, they will likely assume you looking forward to when they will be leaving. This could be interpreted in a very hurtful manner.
- “Why don’t you like me?” With all of the emotions that a child is experiencing during the whirlwind of their changing family life, the last thing your stepchild needs or wants is to be put on the spot and forced to talk about their feelings. Chances are, their negative actions toward you are not personal, anyway.
Why Don’t My Stepchildren Like Me?
You’ve consolidated households and thought you would all live as one happy family. Yet something is not as you expected. Your stepchildren don’t seem to be on the same page. In fact, you’re left wondering, “Why don’t my stepchildren like me?”
Your stepchildren appear to not like you because you are a reminder to them of the end of their family as they once knew it. Children of divorce suffer loss, grief, and anger as they mourn what they have lost. When one of their parents remarries, it reminds the child of their new reality.
Children feel helpless when the family they once knew changes. They long for what they had and may resent the new stepparent for trying to step in and perhaps take the place of their other parent.
Another reason a stepchild may appear distant as if they don’t like you is if they are dealing with feelings of guilt feeling they are being disloyal to their other biological parent.
Stepparents should make sure they don’t try to step into a parenting role. Doing so can cause big problems and an enormous amount of disdain from the stepchild. They already have parents and will resent you for trying to step in as a parent when you really are not.
How Do I Help Siblings in Blended Families Get Along?
It’s common to hope for that perfect blended family where everyone gets along from day one, there is mutual respect, and it feels as though it was meant to be. Unfortunately, that unicorn and fairy dust dream is far from reality.
Keeping the following things in mind will help siblings in a blended family get along with realistic expectations:
- Be realistic and know it will take the newly blended family time to adjust. Don’t push the envelope and try to rush the connection between stepsiblings. Let it happen naturally.
- Be on the lookout for any developing jealousy and step in before it gets out of control. It’s important to approach the child gently to avoid making them feel targeted, which might worsen the situation.
- Schedule time alone with each child. When each child feels special and is given one-on-one attention, they will be less inclined to experience feelings of jealousy.
- Make sure to never compare the children in the household. Each child is unique and special in their own way, and each child should be regularly reminded of their special gifts.
- Family meetings on a regular basis provide a great way to give each family member an opportunity to express their thoughts or concerns. Make it a point to listen quietly when each person is talking without interrupting.
- When a child in a blended family opens up and communicates with you, validate their feelings. You may not agree with how they feel, but their feelings are real and deserve to be heard.
Are You Still a Stepparent After Divorce?
Stepparents who do not adopt their stepchildren do not have any legal parental rights or obligations towards them. For tax reasons, your stepchild may still be your stepchild, and as many stepparents are aware, nothing can ever truly replace the unique relationship you have with your stepchild.
How Do You Deal with Rude Stepchildren?
Although a child may never appreciate their stepparent, they must understand that they cannot get away with being irritating or disrespectful.
You deal with rude stepchildren by making the rules known upfront and expecting those rules to be followed. Responding to eye rolls and sour facial expressions gives the child control, so pretend not to notice and be happy as long as the rules are being followed.
You and your partner must work together to insist that your children treat you both with respect.
Children teach adults not to ask them questions and not to demand anything from them by acting rudely.
If your stepchild seems a little miffed that you are in charge of them, don’t worry about it as long as they follow your rules.
It should be sufficient if you instruct them to do their chores and they do so. They are not required to enjoy it.
As long as you receive reasonable cooperation, you should let go of any attitude they may have while complying with the rules.
Don’t worry if they roll their eyes or give you a foul look; those actions are irritating but not harmful.
Don’t respond to the eye-rolling in order to give it unwarranted power. If you choose to ignore it, it will ultimately disappear.
Can Stepchildren Get Married?
Technically, stepsiblings can lawfully marry each other because they are not blood-related. Since they are not at risk of producing children with genetic defects because they are not blood relatives, there are no state regulations that forbid marriage between stepsiblings.
With that said, many people are put off by the idea of stepsiblings getting married, blood-related or not. And just because something is legal does not mean one should necessarily do it.
I find it hard to research and write about this topic while at the same time keeping my own personal opinions to myself.
If two people are stepsiblings and wish to marry, that is their decision and their story to tell. Although some may feel doing so is a bit too close for comfort and be turned off by the possible stigma, others may not care what people think.
- Defeating Divorce
- Help Guide
- Child Mind Institute
- Relationship Suite
About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those considering growing their family. Trina is a seasoned writer, content creator, and website owner with a passion for unbiased research, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.