By Counselor Karen: I would love to share the stories of my blended step-family of five kids. While I would love to say it was an easy journey to raise them all, it was one of the hardest things that I feel my husband and I ever have done. But the good news is we made it! The kids are young adults now and have lives of their own. It makes me happy to see that they turned out to be good people despite the hard circumstances of their biological parents fighting and having to deal with back and forth between two homes for visitation. But with all that said, I would have done it all again. Out of that experience, we all became stronger people. We learned to love one another, even when we were not blood related. I liked to think about it as having “bonus children” with someone I was madly in love with.
The reality is that loving someone else’s child is not easy. It is not something that comes naturally and especially when the other biological parent is in the picture reminding you constantly that you are not the parent, yet you are doing the work as if you are. But with that being said, being a step parent can be a very rewarding experience even when it’s hard. I wanted lots of children so having two extra right off the bat with my second marriage was great. I think my problem was I had four children under 5 to tend to and I was still only 26 years old at the time. In many ways I was learning about myself and having at the same time to learn about these new kids in my life and how they would fit with my own two kids. We were lucky enough that the kids were all close in age and loved one another dearly. They clicked right away with one another and still are close today. We were blessed to add another son to our mix which really brought them all together.
The fact is, in today’s world, the chances of being a stepparent now are very high. So it’s so important for couples to get educated on how to do this. Read books from the library, do things together as a family, and even do things alone with your stepchildren to make them feel validated. Looking back I would have done so many things differently. I allowed being young and insecure to control how I reacted to situations. Instead of being the bigger one when the other parents wanted to start things, I got just as angry back. I did not put the children first in thinking how they felt. After all, their biological parents were their parents. Me coming in as a stepmom did not alter that fact.
But the most important thing I can say in all of this is that if you love your spouse, then their children can be easily loved as well. You have to look for the similarities in them that remind you of the person you are with. After all, they are a huge part of the makeup of this child. I remember I liked my husband to see me being a good role model to his children. I would do the family lunches at school, the homework help and even watch them while he was at work. These were things that brought us all closer as a family. I even quit my job outside the home to do full-time daycare to be home with all of them. I felt it was better to have them together rather than in separate daycare.
I do believe you can bond with a child, even if you did not physically bring them into this world. The most important thing is to remember that what you do and say to this child can leave a lasting impact on them for life. But imagine if you can be the one that lifts them up, builds their confidence, and help them reach their goals, how much of an influence you can be in their lives.
Even as stepparents we can raise up amazing men and women in a home that is filled with love and examples of relationship goals in the new union of a blended family. Now my son is engaged to a woman with a child and I am excited at seeing how he is with him. He shows him so much love as if he is his own. I like to think that somehow my husband (his stepdad) gave him examples that help him now be the man he needs to be so that this boy can grow up to be a great man himself. I love hearing my husband talk to my adult son now about how hard it was raising him, but how he loved him all the way through it.
Remember step parenting is not easy, but if you have a big heart and patience, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever have! They did not ask for their mommy and daddy to split up, and all they really want is stability and for their parents to love them. That role is so vital in being a stepparent. To nurture your relationship with them, but also encourage theirs with their biological parents no matter how you feel about your exes.
A bad experience in being raised can change an adult life. Remember that words are powerful to a young child and that not accepting them can leave lifelong issues as adults. I think if we could put ourselves in their place, we would feel lost and scared as well. So we need to take that fear they have and change it into love and compassion. It is not I am marrying your mom or dad, it’s more like, I am marrying all of you.. You are my bonus child.
Love and Light,