A chosen love is a special love that you develop over time with your stepchildren. It’s not like the love you have for your biological children, but it doesn’t make it any less strong. Because let’s face it falling in love with our husband was easy, but loving children that we didn’t give birth to or didn’t plan for, yet alone didn’t help raise them is hard and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like going to the mall shopping and just picking out any random child and feeling instant love for them, that doesn’t happen or work that way. A chosen love will take time to grow. It first starts with a connection between you and your stepchildren. That connection or bond if you will develop through spending quality time with your stepchildren. The younger the stepchildren are the easier it is to build this connection. The older the stepchildren are the harder it is to build this connection. I would say stepchildren 12 and up, you have to work harder at building this connection and it takes longer than it does with stepchildren 11 and younger.
My stepchildren were ages 8 and 11 when I first met them. It was more difficult to bond with my stepdaughter who was age 11 years old and it got even harder the older she got. I did develop a connection with her, but it wasn’t as strong as I would have liked it to be because of her mother hating both my husband and me. Unfortunately, my stepdaughter has the same personality as the biological mother which also made it difficult for me. But it didn’t stop me from trying, I did a lot of things with her 1:1 to develop this connection and it did develop and I do have this chosen love towards both of my stepchildren, but it took a lot longer with my stepdaughter than it did with my stepson. I would say I spent more time investing in my stepdaughter than I did my stepson, which I really regret because now my stepdaughter is off to college out of state and now my step son who is 14 years old, doesn’t really have a connection with me. So when there’s more than one stepchild, make sure you to invest your time evenly with both of them regardless of how difficult one stepchild might be compared to the other one.
How do you develop a connection?
Well, it is different with each stepchild because all children are different. However here are some ways that I used and researched.
- Doing little things for them: Do something for them that you have heard them talk about. You could take them somewhere 1:1 or get them something small that isn’t expensive that they either said they needed or something they wanted. It goes a long ways and helps you start to build a connection with them.
- Take them to get a gift for their Mom: If her birthday or Mother’s Day is coming up, you take them out 1:1 and help them shop for a gift for their Mom. Not only will they appreciate it, but once their Mom finds out that you took them instead of their Dad, it will make her hate you less. So in a way you are scoring points with not just your stepchild but their mom too.
- Do an activity with them: Such as teach them how to cook something or play a game with just them.
- Run an errand with them: Ask them to go on an errand with them and while driving in the car talk to them. All children talk 90% more when they are driving in a car with their parents, so take advantage of this time, turn off the radio or turn it down and find out what’s new with them. Don’t ask about school either, find a topic they like, only you know what they are into and talk about it with them.
- Befriend Them: Stick up for them every now and then whether it be against some other kid that mistreated them or if your child did something wrong against them.
- Exchange Interests: Find something that you might enjoy that the stepchild enjoys and do it together.
- Family Games: When you do family games, be on their side against others. For example, we had a water gun fight and I was on my stepson’s side once against the other kids and my husband.
- Do NOT Discipline them: Especially the first year, let your husband be the disciplinary parent. If you step in and discipline them to early on, your connection will be very hard to get.
If you do everything and you still don’t develop that connection. Its okay maybe it will come in time or maybe it won’t the best thing to do is to be honest with your husband. It’s okay to tell your husband you don’t like their children, however, you still need to be a good parent to them and don’t take it out on them. If you tell your husband how you honestly feel, it will be a lot better than faking it and hiding it from your husband.
All you can do with that is give them some space and continue to be nice to them and love them from a distance. Do not punish them from sharing their feelings with you or push your way onto them. Sometimes the stepchildren do not like the stepmom because they have been told to do that. In that case, it makes it even more difficult to be around them. But when you are around the children, be nice to them. In other words, kill them with kindness. Eventually, they will see that you are very nice to them and that it’s okay to like you.
Please try to understand that sometimes a stepchild admitting to liking the stepmom might mean that they are going against their mother’s back and hurting the mom. This is where loyalty issues come into play, where they want to like you, but feel like they can’t because of their mother. Sometimes understanding where they stepchildren are coming from really helps to know that it isn’t about you. Once a stepchild has said they “hate you”, you need to sit down and have a family meeting. If you’re not comfortable, then have your husband sit down with that stepchild 1:1 and find out why they hate you (the stepmom). If they can’t give a good reason, then chances are its loyalty issue with their mother. But if they do give a reason, then the husband needs to talk to you about it. For example, a stepchild said they hated the stepmom because she always yelled at them worse than the other children in the home. Make sure you go to them with your husband and validate their feelings and tell them you are sorry they feel that way and tell them that you always try your best to treat everyone the same. Have a family meeting and ensure to all of the children in the home that the rules are the same for everyone and that everyone will be treated fairly in the home. Then after that, make sure you do that and be consistent. The best thing to do is to have your husband take over the discipline for a while. The feelings of the stepchild will change over time, but it will take a lot of time and a lot of being respectful and showing kindness whenever you can. Give that stepchild space; don’t push your way onto them. Eventually, they will come around at their own timing, just be patient. If they don’t come around at least they can never say that you weren’t nice to them. The younger they are, the better your chances are of them coming around. Sometimes you might even want to consider counseling for your blended family; it will also help you get through the hard times.
Step-parenting can be very hard, but don’t give up, you might have to lose the unrealistic expectations and most of all be patient. Don’t give up hope and pray for your stepchildren every day besides your marriage. It takes time for everyone to get along and accept everyone and love takes even longer. If you truly love your husband, then it’s worth the wait.