I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’ve noticed myself becoming more annoyed at my 10-year-old stepson. I’ve been married to my husband for four years and we have two of our own children. My stepson only lives with us part of the time. I’ve noticed that I have stopped looking forward to the times when we have my stepson in our home. Will this get better? What do you think is going on?
Blending a family is a tough transition for everyone involved. Even though there are many variables that make each blended family situation unique, however, there are some common patterns to help identify ways to improve your situation.
In my work with blended families, it’s common to see well-meaning stepparents admit that they struggle to feel connected or bonded to their stepchildren in the same way they feel bonded to their own biological children. This difference in feelings often produces a sense of shame in the stepparent.
Stepparents naturally enter the marriage with strong feelings for their new spouse and believe they will develop a strong bond to their spouse’s children. The reality of keeping those feelings alive through the turbulence of forming a blended family can be a shocking experience for both stepparents and biological parents.
The best thing you can do is to get educated about the challenges facing blended, families which will help decrease the pressure, and unrealistic expectations you’re experiencing. Blended families go through difficulties with defining the role of the stepparent, competition for the biological parent’s attention, loyalty conflicts, and building a positive relationship with the stepparent. Understanding how to navigate these challenges can validate your experience as a stepparent.
You can reduce the resentment you feel toward your stepson by talking with you husband or a trusted confidant about your feelings of powerlessness over your situation. Sharing the parenting of a child with two other parents can create feelings of frustration and confusion, especially as you wonder where the limits of your influence begin and end.
I recommend that you work to establish clear expectations with your husband about your role as a stepmother. Stick to your program at home with your own children and recognize that your stepson will be expected to follow the same program when he’s in your home. He may take a day or two to adjust when he’s transitioning back into your home, so you’ll take this into consideration as you interact with him during these times.
You’ll have to do work to accept (not necessarily agree with) the reality that your stepson will be living in another home with different rules and relationships over which you have no control.
Your primary responsibility isn’t to have equal feelings of connection between your children and your stepchild. Your primary responsibility is to build your blended family by uniting with your husband, working to co-parent with him and his ex-wife in a mature and responsible manner, and then doing your part to build an individual relationship with your stepson, and honoring the natural limits that come with divorce and custody splits.