We see it all the time: wife dies, man marries another woman, kids say “you can never replace my mother” and make it clear they will not accept their new “mother” into their lives. It goes the other way round too: husband dies, woman marries another man and the kids vehemently kick against it, talmbout “you want to replace our daddy.” Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be death, a couple could just decide to go their separate ways and marry other people. Unfortunately, some children cannot handle that.
Rejection by stepchildren is very common, and many times, stepparents do not know what to do about it. Sometimes, you don’t want to throw yourself at them too often so it won’t be like you are trying too hard to be in their business, trying to force your way into their lives, or replace their biological parent. On the flip side, you don’t want to stay aloof so you don’t come across as being mean or uncaring. So, what to do?
For situations like this, people commonly give one piece of advice: do nothing, just be there for them when they need you. But let’s be honest, how easy is it to “do nothing”? Do you keep quiet as they throw tantrums – if they throw tantrums? Do you sit comfortably in the sitting room with them and not say a word to each other? Do you even feel safe in that house knowing that your step children (probably) hate you?
Many would say that building a healthy family – as a stepparent – requires the acceptance and cooperation of the stepchild(ren). But others would tell you that the children’s perception of you does not matter, after all, you are married to their dad/mum and not to them, and the only person that can affirm your role within the family is your spouse. But come to think about it, how do you build that big, loving family that you have envisaged for long if your spouse’s children do not welcome you into their home and lives?
For many stepparents, they keep trying; organising family-bonding activities like picnics, trips, vacations, and so on, hoping that events like this would bring them all together. Some keep telling and showing their stepchildren how much they love them and how they are ready to accept them whenever they come around. Others will just lock up, stay on their lane, avoid the children as much as they can while praying that one day, the kids will come around.
Perhaps the best way to handle situations like this is to understand your stepchildren’s needs and empathise with them. Do they need time to come around? Are they still grieving their parent (in cases of death)? Are they hoping that their parents would come back together (in cases of divorce)? Or do you just rub off on them in a certain way they don’t like? The best thing is probably to understand why they are acting that way towards you, and imagine what you’ll need if you were in their shoes.
Them not accepting you does not automatically mean they are bad, still, this equally takes a toll on many stepparents, emotionally and mentally – sometimes even physically. It’s not easy for both parties. So what will you do if you ever find yourself being a stepparent to children who do not want to accept you? How would you advise such parent? Is there a right or wrong (or perfect) way to tackle issues like this?