I spent all afternoon folding size 6 boys T-shirts, stepping on toys that were not picked up before school, preparing healthy snacks for first-graders and navigating a new dinner recipe based on my stepson’s favorite ingredients. When I asked him to pick up his backpack and shoes scattered across the kitchen floor, he snarled, “Why should I? You never do anything for me.”
After three years as a stepmom, I’ve discovered a few strategies for loving sometimes unlikable stepkids. In these moments as a stepparent, I have to remind myself: I love all my kids — even when I don’t particularly like them. Being the secondary mom or dad comes with an added layer of testing, but with the right mentality, you can be a loving stepparent in every situation.
Remember that you’re the adult
Your stepkids won’t always show you respect, even though they should. You may have chosen them, but they didn’t choose you — and that can lead to resentment. Fight the urge to retaliate. Sometimes it’s better to walk away or hold your tongue rather than escalating the tension with an outburst.
Seek backup from your spouse
For your stepchildren to respect you, your spouse has to give you parenting authority and then back you up. It just means that to parent properly, you need support from the other adult in the house. Communicate with your spouse when you feel like the odd one out in the family dynamic.
Find unique moments to connect
In many ways, being a stepparent is like arriving at a party a bit late: You’ve already missed some of the fun, but there’s more to be had. Instead of wasting energy trying to wedge your way into long-standing family traditions or activities, develop some of your own. A few weeks into my marriage, I threw together a dinner of pancakes. My stepson still talks about how much he enjoys having “breakfast for dinner,” so I make this meal on special occasions or when he gets a good report from school. It’s a unique point of connection for us.
Look for everyday ways to bless your stepchildren, and it will bless you, too.