Are your stepchildren driving you batty?
You said “I do,” but now that you’re living with difficult stepchildren, maybe you should have said, “I don’t!” Blending families is not an easy job. Preschoolers are young and adorable, but they sure know how to make stepparents feel unwelcome. Luckily, time and a few survival tactics can help the most seemingly difficult stepchildren adjust to life in a blended family. Your once, tough-as-nuts stepchildren may transform into delightful cherubs before your very eyes. Or not. But you might stop dreading the time you spend with them, and maybe even smile a little.
1Adjust your expectations. Don’t expect to fall in love with your stepchildren overnight. Young children often feel like they must compete against their stepparents for their parents’ affection. If you try to establish a close relationship too quickly, they can feel threatened.
2Avoid trying to be your stepchildren’s parent. Toddlers and preschoolers may withdraw from you or become hostile if you try to exert authority or act like a parent. Aim for friends or even just friendly.
3Work with your partner to set family rules. Young children act out if they don’t feel secure. Consistent boundaries will help them feel safe and give them a secure place in your blended family. Require respect from all children. Your partner should never allow children to stick their tongues out at you or call you any preschooler obscenities. No “Stepmom is a doo-doo head” allowed.
4Try to empathize with how your stepchildren may be feeling. Even though they may seem like their only goal in life is to make your life miserable, your stepkids may be experiencing their own troubles. While you are happily settling into a new marriage and family, your young stepchildren may still be planning how to get mommy and daddy back together. As that dream dies, their little hearts break. Along with sad feelings, your young stepchildren are very young and might be missing their other parent when they are with you and your partner. When preschoolers are upset, sad or worried about their families, they often misbehave. Take some time to find out if that little scowling face is really hiding tears.
5Plan family activities. As you start to spend time with your stepkids in fun ways, like picnics in the park or playing with play dough, you may see them in a different light. Bond with your stepchildren and create new family traditions.
- If you absolutely cannot handle being around your stepchildren, you may need to seek professional assistance to help you work through your feelings. Even young children will be know that you don’t like them.