As much as you love your partner, it still takes time to learn how to coexist with their children peacefully. You might care about the little ones as if they were yours, but that sentiment doesn’t prevent conflict.
It helps if you go into the situation knowing what to expect. If you are about to take the next step in your relationship with someone who has children, you can prevent much frustration through reflection and understanding. Here are five stepparent struggles to look out for and how to deal when they arise.
1. When Parenting Doesn’t Come Naturally
When your partner was expecting, they devoured all the childcare-related literature that they could find. They scoured the internet for how-to articles and might have even attended parenting classes.
If you have been childless up to this point, you might not take naturally to parenting. Unfortunately, ladies, you might carry a disproportionate guilt burden because people expect you to adore motherhood, regardless of whether you ever wanted children.
Therefore, you might feel like a failure if you don’t instantly start enjoying things like 3 a.m. diaper changes. You could beat yourself up for resenting having to sit through soccer practices in the rain, thinking that you are somehow defective.
How to Deal: Be a Friend
Please don’t think there is something wrong with you if parenthood doesn’t come naturally. Even those who always knew they wanted children often wonder if they are cut out for the job, regardless of whether they admit it.
Instead, revel in your unique position. While it can be problematic for a biological parent to befriend their child, that’s precisely where you come in. Set boundaries the way you would with your buddies.
For example, while you might give a pal a ride to work when their car was in the shop, you’d probably feel burdened if they expected the same favor every day. If you feel equally resentful about stepping into responsibilities like spending every Saturday on the bleachers, communicate your boundaries to your partner.
2. When the Children Blame You for the Separation
Regardless of the circumstances that brought you and your partner together, your stepchildren might blame you for their parent’s divorce. The problem gets even hairier if they hold one parent primarily responsible for the split.
It’s understandable to feel hurt if you interpret that your stepchild is unjustly targeting you. However, all the protestations in the world won’t convince another person of something they don’t want to hear — it can only make you feel frustrated.
How to Deal: Stay Neutral
While you want to mend fences, it isn’t your place to explain the ins and outs of your relationship with your stepchild’s biological parent. Do what you must to control your emotions when unfounded accusations fly. Let the biological parent handle any consequences, and speak with them privately about how the outburst made you feel.
3. When Your Boundaries Get Crossed
You told your stepchild a million times to stay out of your office. Now, you can’t find the budget report file that’s due in minutes after they used your computer “just real quick” despite your rules.
How to Deal: Stay Calm and Implement Practical Solutions
As justified as you might think it is, blowing your stack will only strain the relationship between you and your stepchild. Instead, remain calm when addressing the situation and apply practical solutions when you can. For example, would it kill you to remember to lock your computer and password protect it when you get up to attend to another household task?
4. When It Isn’t Your Place to Make Decisions
Your stepchild wants to go to the dance with her boyfriend. She’s otherwise respectful and responsible, and you think 16 is a fine age to start dating. Your partner disagrees and forbids her to go.
How to Deal: Hold Your Tongue
As tempting as it is, don’t step in and advocate on your stepchild’s behalf. Doing so will only strain the relationship between you and your partner. It also makes them look like the “bad guy” — don’t be surprised if they become resentful.
5. When Your Expectations Don’t Match Reality
When you moved in with your partner, you expected the white picket fence and apple pie following Sunday dinner. What you got was a house that’s constantly messy no matter how much you clean, complete with an endless pile of dishes in the sink.
How to Deal: Let Go and Enjoy the Ride
The next time you get frustrated, please remember that often, such feelings arise not because what’s happening is so terrible but instead because you wanted it to be different. Remember that you have the power to choose your mood — would you rather indulge your disappointment or celebrate the imperfect joys you do have?
Recognize These 5 Stepparent Struggles and How to Deal
Recognizing these five stepparent struggles and bracing yourself for them before they occur can help prevent unnecessary arguments and tears. Ease your transition into your new instant family with these tips.