FOR KIDS: Getting Along With Your Stepparent
By Michele Diamond, LCSW
Your Mom or Dad has gotten remarried and now you have a stepparent!
You didn’t choose this person, you’re not the one who fell in
love with this person and decided to share your life with them,
and in fact you may not have had much say in the matter at all.
But nonetheless there’s someone new living in your house and as
you’ve already heard from your Mom or Dad, it’s best if you can
find a way to get along with your stepparent.
“How”, you might ask, “am I supposed to like this person when
we have nothing at all in common?” Or, “why should I even try
to like this person, I didn’t want him here in the first place
and now he’s trying to tell me what to do and influence Mom on
how she does things?” Or, “Well, yeah, she’s not so bad I guess,
but she’s not my real mother. If I get close to my stepmother,
it might make my real mother feel bad.” Or “What if I start to
really like her and then she and my Dad get divorced?”
If you have had any of these questions, you’re not alone and
you’re perfectly normal. You have every right to feel angry, scared,
resentful or have any other feeling. It’s what you DO with your
feelings that makes all the difference. Here are some things to
keep in mind when trying to answer the questions above.
You may think that you have nothing in common with your stepparent,
but actually you have at least one very big thing in common with
him, your Mother! Both of you love your mother and the two of
you may even feel resentful of each other sometimes because your
mother is only one person and you both want to spend time with
her. If you feel like you’re not spending as much time with your
Mom as you’d like, tell her. Or think about asking your stepparent
if he can think of a way that the two of you can “share your mother”.
Also, talk to your stepparent about things he likes to do. You
might be surprised to learn that you really do have things in
Perhaps you don’t see much reason to get along with your stepparent,
especially if you’re angry that you had no say in his becoming
a part of your life. That too is understandable but it’s important
to find a reason because otherwise your home life is not going
to feel very happy to you. It is very natural to feel especially
resentful or angry if your stepparent tries to discipline you.
It is always wisest for the biological parent to set and enforce
the rules with the stepparent only enforcing the rules when the
biological parent is not around. If your stepparent is actively
setting rules, speak to your biological parent about it. Tell
him/her how you feel about this and if they don’t see your point
of view suggest that they read this article or other books on
Stepfamily Life. You may even ask them to consider going to family
counseling so that you can all talk about this together.
And what if you’re afraid to get close to your stepparent because
you’re concerned you’ll be disloyal to your biological parent
or that the stepparent might leave someday? First, if you’re concerned
about being disloyal, talk to your biological parent about this.
Hopefully they will tell you that they want you to be happy when
you are at the other parent’s house and that it’s fine for you
like or even love your stepparent. If you don’t get this response
from your parent, it will be more difficult for you to let yourself
get close to your stepparent. You may however, want to explain
this to your stepparent so that they will understand and not have
their feelings hurt. And of course, as you’ve already learned,
there are no guarantees that a marriage will last forever, but
don’t let it get in the way of developing close relationships
with a stepparent now. They may become a very important part of
your life and if you keep yourself from liking them out of fear,
you’ll end up losing out in the long run.
Remember that things don’t change overnight. Think about what
you’d really, really like the relationship with your stepparent
to be. Take one step at a time toward achieving that relationship.
Write down 5 things you can do toward creating a better relationship
with your stepparent. Now, begin.
Write to me through my website if you like.
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