If you are a stepmother then you know it is not all a bed of roses. Yes, there are the great times with your new love and you get to be part of a family. Then there is the part that you have heard so much about. Sometimes your stepchildren seem to hate your guts and just want you out of their life. You quickly find out that your step-children get angry if you do not make the dinner the way they are used to it, or they resent being told what to do or being disciplined by you. They compare you to their friend's parents and their mother. Sometimes it seems as if nothing is going right and you just want to give up.

It does not have to be this way. You do not have to be hurt just because you are raising kids that are not your own biological children. You do not have to have a bitter, resentful relationship with your stepchildren.
Being a stepmother can be very challenging. The intensity of the problem varies and may depend on how many stepchildren are involved, the relationship between the children and their father, and even the ages of the children. Some of the problems that a new stepmother may face include disrespectful children, distant children, and undisciplined children. They may seem to be like angels to everyone else but when it comes to you, they transform into a completely different person. For stepchildren who are toddlers, there might not be a big problem. They tend to be affectionate and accept people very easily. Step kids that are in their preteen and teen years may be a bit more difficult to deal with. They are more likely to argue with you and may seem to 'test' you before accepting you.

It is important that you do not blame yourself or the child for the way the relationship is between the two of you. You should not blame your spouse either. If you joined this family thinking all would be as it was before, then you may be in for a surprise. If you were not previously living with the family and have a close relationship with them, then there are bound to be unforeseen difficulties.

There are many reasons why children may act out towards you. If they feel threatened or jealous, they may become disrespectful or distant. If they are introverts and you keep on trying to 'get them out of their shell' then they may resent you. If you try to "change them" or plan to "fix" the family, you may end up with more than you bargained for.

Having a new person in the home means the attention they were once getting from their father is now further divided. It is also possible that the children are hesitant in accepting you because they are still mourning the loss of their mother or the relationship between their parents. Some may even have hopes of their parents getting back together and so try not to get to close to you as a way of not betraying their mother.

There are many ways to have a better relationship with your stepchildren. All of them are free and only require patience and devotion on your part. Try putting yourself in the child's shoe. How would you feel or react to some of the things you do? Talk to the child and find out how they really feel what they really think about you and their family.

Disrespectful Children
Respect begets respect. If you respect the child then it is more likely that they will respect you too.
  • Respect their space: Do not infringe on their privacy (look through their diaries or go through their personal items). If there is a reason to go through the child's things, let their father do it until you have built a better relationship with the child.
  • Discuss with your partner and the child what the child should call you. Do not force them to call you Mommy, Mom, or Mother. While choosing a name for yourself, be sure it is respectful, like Aunt.
  • Do not give the child the impression that you are there to take the place of their mother. Their mother can never be replaced, no matter what the relationship was like between mother and children.

Distant Children
There are many reasons why children may seem distant to you. They may be introverts, naturally quiet, or they may just not be confrontational.
  • Give them time to know you and accept you for who you are. Some quiet children are comfortable learning about you from a distance. They will listen to you and watch you even when you do not realize it, all in an effort to know what type of person you are. 
  • Take the time to know more about the child. Learn about their personality, their likes, and dislikes. 
  • Talk to them about yourself. Tell them about your likes, dislikes, stories about your childhood. 

Undisciplined Children
While some children will be satisfied to take the time to know you and listen to your point of view, there are children who will act out at the slightest notice.

  • Discuss with your partner who will be doing the disciplining and how. Discuss how you can enforce the rules without crossing boundaries.
  • Try not to show preference.

  • Do not use treats to 'buy' the child's love.
Being a new stepmother can be challenging but it is something you can handle. With the support of the children's father, and the cooperation of the children, the family life can be wholesome.

As a stepmother, what are some measures put in place to improve the family life and relationships in your home?

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