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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 common.

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.

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