Why stepparents won't love your kids the way you do...and why that's okay!
"My fiance doesn't love my child like he loves his own children. How can I fix this?"
-- Stephanie M.
This is a typical issue for soon-to-be blended families. It is also a common theme within already
blended families who just can't get over the parent/child/stepparent relationship differences. I love that Stephanie wants to be proactive in building her stepfamily, that's what makes a family successful. I did have to remind her that this isn't something that can really be "fixed" in the sense that her fiance will love her child and his own children equally.
Can they share a close bond? Yes, of course!
Can they eventually grow to love each other? Possibly.
Will it be just like with his own children. No and that's okay!
Here's a few points I shared with Stephanie and her fiance:
1. You have a head start and a natural bond! You've have loved your kiddo from his first breath. When a stepparent comes into the picture that person needs to build a relationship with the child that will be unique and special for them. It's not an automatic relationship like a parent and child, but it can be very special.
2. It takes time and effort. It helps when a SP (stepparent) and SC (stepchild) spend time together. At first it'll be with you there, then step back and let the two of them have bonding time. Help him find things to do with your child, it could be going to a park, playing a favorite game or reading at bedtime. Remember: they need to find their own "common ground" to feel connected.
3. He is being respectful of her space. There is a natural desire for parents to want a close bond between their children and the new significant other. Part of the blended family adjustment is trying to figure out each other's boundaries. My questions for her: I'm wondering if your fiance is a "grab her up and give her smooches" kind of guy? Maybe he feels reserved around her? Perhaps he's not sure how she'd feel about it, especially because she doesn't even acknowledge him when he walks in.
4. Prompt appropriate behaviors Stephanie told me that her daughter didn't even acknowledge her fiance when he came home from work. I feel it's important to set the standard for respectful behavior early on with kids. They should acknowledge someone when that person says hello, it's just basic manners what will serve them well later on. My suggestion to Stephanie regarding the acknowledgement piece...I'd prompt her to at least say hello just out of respect and courtesy. She doesn't have to jump up and down when he arrives, but it's respectful to say hello when someone walks in. This will also open up the opportunity for a quick question from him about her day. There are so many other small changes that I will add in as we work together to build their strong family foundation. For now, I wanted to share the beginning stages of how you, too, can reduce your stress regarding the differences in the parent/child/stepparent relationship.
You may have fallen in love with this new person, but it doesn't necessarily result in a close relationship between your significant other and your child. This takes time and quite honestly, it doesn't always end up in a tight bond. (More on that later, see below for how to get those tips!)
If you and your partner are having stepcouple issues and would like some additional tips and support, I'm here to help. Click here to receive my strategy-filled newsletters, you'll also receive a FREE copy of "Making Family Rules that Work"