If you want your re-marriage to work well, you will have to love your new spouse AND your new spouse’s kids. Many stepparents will testify that this is easier said than done. Loving someone’s else’s children can be hard. While one usually has an instinct to love one’s own children, this instinct does not apply to other people’s kids. When your own children misbehave, you may not like them but you still love them. However, when your spouse’s children misbehave, you just don’t like them.
Fortunately, it’s possible for a sincere and determined step-parent to learn how to love, or at least almost love, his or her spouse’s children. Here are some tips on how to do it:
Decide to Love
Start by making a conscious decision to love your stepchildren. After all, they are part of the man or woman you married; in a sense, they are an extension of your new spouse. Your spouse loves his or her children intensely; by caring deeply for your spouse’s children, you are able to convey deep caring for your spouse. Your new spouse will love you all the more for loving his or her kids.
Reaching out is YOUR job – not the children’s. It’s tempting to say that kids should be the ones to welcome a new parent into their home. But remember, that after going through a divorce and remarriage, children are very stressed. They’ve experienced many changes that they did not even choose. So be patient if they are awkward, aloof or even rebellious. As the mature adult, you should be the one to reach out to them to make them feel safe, comfortable and cared for.
Get to Know Them Better
If you want to learn to love a person, you should start by getting to know them better. Ask your spouse about their likes and dislikes, what makes them excited, scared or frustrated. Better yet, spend frequent quality time with them, so that you can come to know who they really are, and they can get to know you too.
It’s unrealistic to expect immediate closeness, so aim for the next best thing: rapport. Exert the effort to make your stepchildren comfortable around you. Talk about everyday stuff, things kids are interested in like music, school or TV shows. Find out what their favorite food is and prepare it. Joke around. Show interest in their latest projects and activities. Compliment them on their new toy or dress. If possible, get to know their friends and classmates or at least recognize the names of the important players in their lives. Love can spring from routine companionship and friendship, so don’t feel like you have to rush! Over time, feelings will grow.
Understand Your Role
Many step-parents make the mistake of expecting to be loved just like a biological parent. But it’s unreasonable to expect step kids to love you as they love their own mother or father — blood is thicker than water! Try not to feel resentful if there are particular boundaries your step child does not cross with you. Maybe you will never be in their complete confidence. Maybe they will never put beside their natural parent. But you can still be a trusted and reliable member of their inner circle. Love has many faces; if you don’t try to force love to look the way you expect it to or want it to, you may discover a new, delightful way to experience it with your spouse’s children.