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Learning To Deal With Stepchildren-The Beginning

May 8, 2008
With the soaring divorce rates today, combined families are becoming more common. Recent statistics have shown that 50% of all marriages will end in divorce, leading to one out of every two children living in a single-parent home by the age of eighteen. 80% of these divorced people will remarry which means that at one point in their lives, the majority of all children will have a stepparent. Becoming a stepparent can be a an awkward and difficult situation, but there are several things that you can do to help you and your stepchild.

It is normal for most stepchildren to resent a new stepparent. Sometimes this resentment is due to the underlying hostility that their biological parent feels towards the former spouse's new relationship. The children may also view you as an obstacle that stands in the way of their dream (however unrealistic) that one day their parents will get back together. If their biological parent is not involved or is totally absent, they may also see you as an interloper who is trying to take that parent's place.

As a stepparent, you need to understand these feelings and have the patience to give the children time to become accustomed to you at their own pace. Forcing the issue can cause even more resentment and can push the children even farther out of your reach. If the problem stems from hostility on the former spouse's part, your spouse needs to discuss the issue with the other party and the two of them need to reach some kind of agreement for the benefit of the children. It would probably not a good idea for you to speak to the ex as that person may view you as an interloper also. If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, you will just have to accept it and take comfort in the fact that most children will make their own decisions about you in the end.

If the resentment stems from the children's unrealistic expectations of a reconciliation between their parents, your spouse needs to sit down and have an open conversation with the children, explaining that reconciliation is impossible and that you are here to stay. Again, it would be helpful if your spouse's former partner could be a part of the discussion if possible. If the children hear this naked truth from both parents, they will be more likely to believe it.

In the case of an absent parent, you can reassure the children that you do not wish to take that parent's place and encourage them to talk about their mother or father. If the children wish to try to contact that parent, you should inform your spouse and offer whatever support is needed if he agrees to try to establish contact. After a period of time in your care, the children will begin to appreciate you as an important part of their lives and may even hold you in more esteem than their absent parent.

Starting a life together with a new spouse is difficult under normal circumstances, while adding stepchildren to the mix can make it all seem like it is not worth it. You need to remember that you married for better or worse, and with a little love and a lot of patience, you may be surprised to discover that you have been gifted with several children that love and depend on you and can fulfill your life more than you could possibly have known.
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