Archive for August 7th, 2006

August 7, 2006

A few thoughts about step-children…

by Rod Smith

I have had several requests to write about stepchildren and stepparenting…..

1. Growing up within an intact, stable, biological family is already sufficiently challenging. Adjusting to a “new” family, with a stepparent, makes something that is already difficult – growing up – even tougher. Difficulties are compounded when both parents remarry within a short time of each other. (The child is dealing with two “new” families and the trauma of the loss of the “original” family).

2. Stepchildren have, by definition, experienced monumental trauma. Its power to destabilize the “new” family should not be underestimated.

3. Stepchildren who say “we didn’t ask for this” (divorce, weekend visitations, or death of a parent, remarriage) are usually right.

4. Children innately want to live with their biological parents and will not necessarily welcome the arrival of a “new” adult. Knee-jerk rejection of a new significant other is to be expected and resistance to “intruders” can be expressed in cunning, even cruel ways.

5. Stepchildren can have a heightened awareness of what they might see as fraudulent adults who often display pseudo-closeness.

6. Adults who try too hard, who are overly focused on getting to know the children, or try to “lay down the rules” or “show who is boss” are setting themselves up to fail at an already difficult task.

7. Stepchildren will not automatically love someone just because their parent does.

8. Embracing stepsiblings is difficult even for the most understanding and welcoming children.