Cinderella certainly had reason to dislike her Stepmom, but she had only the mice to tell. Your children have you to talk to about their relationship with their stepparent. Below are 10 questions to help you and your child deal if those talks turn negative.
1. Are they trying to make you happy by disliking their stepparent?
Most parents don’t want any harsh feelings they have towards their ex to be seen by their child, but sometimes it happens. Even when it doesn’t kids may assume you want to hear only bad things about the new spouse. Encourage their relationship and encourage them to work on it because this person will be a part of their lives.
2. What’s going well?
It can’t all be bad. Something has to be going well. Find what that is and build off of it. Maybe they dislike that their stepparent wants to eat dinner at 7pm, but likes that they have similar tastes in movies. Build on the similarities and the positives.
3. Is there any mistreatment?
As parents, we are very protective of our children. If your child is reporting mistreatment, talk to your ex and handle it as adults. Report it, if necessary, but definitely do what you can to handle it.
4. How long has it been?
Though the adults went through a period of time dating, kids aren’t usually brought into the mix until the relationship is much more serious. This means the children haven’t had as long to get to know them and can lead to a feeling of dislike. Encourage them to spend time together getting to know each other.
5. What can you say to your ex?
When your child is coming to you with negative feedback, the two people that should be involved are the parents. Whether you have a positive co-parenting relationship or not, you do need to have a conversation with your ex about this. Though your child may be telling you how awful it is, their other parent may be seeing them smiling, laughing and enjoying their time together. Creating a united front as parents to help your child have the best life possible, at both houses, is only fair to your kids.
6. What coping skills help?
It’s easy as parents to step in and try to take everything that causes pain away from our children, but life gives us difficult situations all the time. In fact, we get more of them as we get older. Your children aren’t going to be living at your house forever, but they will have to deal with people they don’t like forever, so help them manage it. Deep breaths, writing in a journal, drawing, music or going for a walk are all helpful for adults, so why wouldn’t they work for your kids?
7. How have they handled change in the past?
Some people are better at change than others. Gaining a stepparent is a huge change. If you have a child that doesn’t handle change well, this could be part of the reason they are struggling. Help them process the information, visualize their new life and manage the changes that come with it.
8. Could they be jealous?
A lot of children feel like their new stepparent is taking their time away from their parent. Through divorce, children need time with both parents and when one of those parents is also spending time with a stepparent, it can be hard on the children. If your child is feeling jealous of the time the stepparent gets, this is a good conversation to have with your ex. Let your child ask for one-on-one time with their parent.
9. What can they say to their other parent?
Your child does need to have a conversation with their other parent about this. If they are feeling distrust, basic dislike or any negative feelings about their stepparent, their other parent should know. Talk to your child about ways to say this to their parent. Being open and honest is important, even when it’s a tough conversation. It will help relieve some of the feelings your child has and could start on the path to making things better.
10. What can they do about managing when nothing else works?
Let’s say it’s been awhile, your child has talked to the other parent, they’ve found similar interests, but none of it helps. What’s next? In some cases, as a last resort, a change in placement may be necessary. In other cases, mutual respect can form when liking each other doesn’t.
Some people believe that a stepparent isn’t an important person their children’s lives, but I disagree. A stepparent lives with their other parent. A marriage assumes they will be there for awhile. Even if the marriage doesn’t last, this person is part of your child’s life while it does.