Don’t Make the Stepparenting Mistake I Made

Don’t Make the Stepparenting Mistake I Made

One mom talks about the trials of being a stepparent and what she learned in the process.


By: Tracy Cassels

I am a stepparent. I never expected to be one and when my relationship with my now-husband started, I didn’t really know what to expect. At first, things with his son, then 3 years old, were great, but within a couple years had turned to anger and resentment, emotions mirroring those of his mother. Far from the days of our happy times with smiles, cuddles, and play, I became Enemy No. 1. I was reminded daily how much he hated me, how much I was ruining his life and his family, how much he wanted me to leave our house and never come back. These words hurt and stung like nothing I expected. He would sit on my lap momentarily, suddenly realize what he was doing, and jump off, glaring at me. I felt hurt and angry, but most of all, helpless.

Then I did the one thing I hope no one else ever does in their relationship with their stepchild: I gave up. At the time, I viewed it as respecting his relationship with his mother. I didn’t want to hurt their relationship (which she felt and I then internalized), so I stoically told my husband I would be the bad guy and it was OK. I didn’t get angry with my stepson, for I knew where his feelings were coming from. But I stopped trying. My stepson’s anger calmed with time, eventually fading entirely as his own mother moved on in her own life and felt more secure in her relationship with her son.

But then, my stepson and I were left with nothing. There was no anger, but there was no love either. I had made sure of that when I gave up. Instead of being the grown-up and figuring out a way to help protect my stepson’s relationship with me while also respecting his relationship with his mother, I let my hurt and my lack of awareness of these situations win out. Of course his mother was hurt, but that didn’t mean I had to give up my relationship with him. Of course my stepson was acting out, but that didn’t mean I had to give up my affection to him.

As stepparents, we are often put in situations that we simply aren’t prepared for. Balancing the numerous relationships around us, especially when they are filled with acrimony (sometimes aimed at us), is hard. What I can tell you is that you don’t give up on your relationship with your stepchildren, even if you think it’s what they want. It may not be easy at times and you may end up hurt beyond words as they lash out at you, but continuing to be there is the key to keeping that relationship.

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I can say, thankfully, that it took time, but my relationship with my now-preteen stepson was mended and we both are open about our love for each other and work each day to improve it. I just wish we hadn’t missed out on all those other years.

Are you a stepparent? What was the biggest challenge in your relationship with your stepchildren? How did you overcome it?



Tracy Cassels is a mom and the creator of EvolutionaryParenting.com. She obtained her BA from the UC Berkeley and her MA from the University of British Columbia where she is completing her PhD in Developmental Psychology and wine drinking.

Image ©iStock.com/ParkerDeen

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