In “The Pitfalls of Second Marriages” I spoke about the financial strikes your new spouse may have because of child support obligations. Finances are only part of the equation. Emotional responses to stepchildren are a whole other article.
It can be hard for some people to accept a stepchild even if they already are a parent themselves. Living with stepchildren can really test your relationship with your new spouse in many different ways. Depending on the age of the child, having them accept your new spouse can take time. There probably will be a lot of resentment, anger and acting out as they get to know each other. You will probably receive a lot of comments either about your parenting skills or hear excuses about why they are laid back with their disciplining.
Either way, throwing stepchildren into a new marriage is another challenge that only strong couples survive. They key to dealing with your stepchild is to remember that they are only a child. Do not expect them to think or act maturely. Remember that they are being shuffled between two homes and it is stressful for them. No matter how their parent acts, look at them and try to see the resemblance in the parent that you are in love with. This can help a lot at those times where you get disgusted with them.
Some children unfortunately are the victims of one parents anger towards the other. They often will be subjected to talk that is not for their ears. They may even be “grilled” by their parent when they return to their other home.
The best a stepparent can do is to expect respect from a stepchild the same way you would expect respect from your own child. Try to allow their parent to discipline but if they fail to do that, speak to them in private about the situation. Avoid discussing issues like child support, the other parent and anything else negative in front of the child. Take the high road even if you know the other parent does not. You will eventually win the stepchild’s respect for behaving this way.
If your spouse paying child support hurts your household financially, it can be natural to feel anger about the situation. Remember that this stepchild has nothing to do with child support orders. Resenting this child means that you really need to talk to a good friend or even therapist about your feelings. All it is going to do is eat you up inside and cause you and your spouse to argue.
You knew your spouse had children when you chose to marry. Living with it may be harder than you expected it to be. It can get frustrating and you will have times of anger. Discussing your feelings with your spouse is something that should be done gingerly. You do not want them to feel badly about the obstacles that they have brought into the marriage. You accepted the situation when you said “I do”. Learning how to live with it may take time but you can get there with the right attitude.
You chose to be with this person and in time, you may even build a good relationship with his children. Do not try to replace their parent, just listen to them and try to get to know them. Show them respect and expect it in return. Your role should be more of an adult friend than a mother or father replacement. When your stepchild realizes that you have their interests at heart they will no longer see you as a threat.