Thanks to the wide range of theatrical productions, step moms have been given a bad name. The step mom is wicked, evil, always trying to steal the dad away from the kids and will at any minute, lock up her stepchildren in attempts to get rid of them. Today, there are millions of step moms in this world who beg to differ with the likes of Cinderella, and who with compassion, strength, and persistence have become matriarchal queens in the lives of children that are not theirs. For the children, the acceptance of a step mom can be difficult, at any age and can easily plant seeds of discontent and confusion that most be dealt with in order to be overcome.
From a child’s standpoint, the acceptance of a step mom is often decided by the way the parents behave. If the birth mother is overly critical and puts herself in a competition with the step mom, things can be strained on the kids. Even if they like the step mom, they will feel a tremendous amount of guilt for feeling that way. They will also not understand the reasoning why their birthparents have divorced and may harbor deep resentment about that. The obvious target will be the step mom. As a step mom, it is important to not try too hard and to realize that as the adult in the situation you are responsible for your actions and reactions. Sure, it can hurt deeply to never feel accepted by a child. It can cause you to anger quickly and to resent the birth mother for her obvious attacks on you when you are not there. The step mom is often the target of ill will from the birthmother and the child. This too can be overcome with patience and dedication. At the same time, acting irrationally and placing demands on the children will only strain your relationship and bring to fruition the monster like character that you are portrayed as being.
Older kids often do not adjust easily to a step mom and feel their authority is non-existent. It is important for a step mom and her husband to be very clear about boundaries and rules in the household and to stand together as a unit. Many parents feel guilty about putting their child through a divorce, and as a means of protection to their children will side with them. This can leave the step mom on the outskirts feeling as though she is not a respected member of the family. Children by nature are manipulative and can use this in their favor. It also takes away the chance of children learning to love and respect their step mom.
Children are also often forced to call their stepmother mom. The thing that you have to realize is that regardless of the situation this woman is not their mom. Children should be allowed to make their own decision about what they call their step mom. They should also be given free will and discretion about if and when they choose to address her as mom. If they are forced they will feel resentful and the label, feeling unnatural, will burn when it roles off of their lips. If their birth mom is still in the picture than they already have a mom and should not have to utter those words to another person unless they wish to do so. The step mom too should respect this as well. Yes, it would feel nice to have the children see you in that role but the place you fill in their heart can be just as good whether they call you Mama Kate or simply Katie.
If you have children of your own and also become a step mom, it is humanly difficult to not be biased. You love your children, not necessarily more, but differently than you love someone else’s. This is not to negate that the love can be just as meaningful or strong. If all of these children permanently or occasionally reside in the same household steps moms and step dads have to be as diligent to equality as possible. This means that the same rules in your home should apply to all children and that your heart is just as open to your stepchildren as it is to the children that you gave birth to.
Probably the most important thing for stepparents in general to realize, is that just because you have found love with someone doesn’t make you a shoe in to the children. These relationships take time to grow, just as any friendship does. If you are extremely lucky, then the growth will start over night without a hitch. More likely though is the fact that the step mom will have to work together to make the relationships with her stepchildren one based on trust and love. This can be done by showing your love, allowing the children to take the lead and by not holding on to many expectations about how things will be. Step moms need to reserve their tongues at time, and realize that their stepchildren are children. They may not have any valid reason to dislike you but they still will at times. They may spat ‘you are not MY mother,’ and with which you should replay, ‘you are right!’ Explaining to them that while you may not be their mother you are in charge of them and deserve respect is important. If you don’t set the groundwork for respect the children can be a threat to your happiness, health, and relationship.
Expecting the best from the step mom and stepchild relationship is a good way to start. As long as you know your place in their life and leave it open ended to include whatever comes up in life you can be in a good position. It is vital to leave bad talk, degrading comments, or gossip about their birth mother completely out of your heart lest you threaten the very foundation, from which these children were born. Their mother, regardless of what you think of her, is still their mother. The mother child relationship, even when painful and unhealthy is one that remains a mystery. Your job is not to replace their birth mother, but to be another person in their life that they can trust, learn to love and count on.