Getting married should be exciting for everyone involved, especially you and your spouse, but the situation can be complicated when your new husband has kids from a previous marriage or relationship. Click here to see a book on Step Parenting that I recommend that is available on Amazon.
Maybe you noticed a bit of hostility while you were dating your new spouse, or maybe it didn’t become obvious until you officially moved into his house, but it seems that no matter how hard you try to be kind and supportive, there’s still that one stepchild who seems to hate your guts.
This can create an environment of tension, hostility, and disrespect, and you may even feel that your relationship with your spouse is strained as a result.
But luckily, there are a few things you can do if you’re confronted with a kid who wants nothing to do with you. Here’s how to deal with a stepchild that hates you.
1. Manage Your Expectations
The most important thing to do when dealing with a stepchild who hates you is to examine the situation. In most cases, this kid has been through his or her parents’ messy divorce.
The child probably sees you as a replacement for his mother, and his already pent-up anger from the divorce is dumped on you as a result. This puts you at an immediate disadvantage.
As soon as you recognize this fact, you can stop beating yourself up—you’re not doing anything wrong; you’re just the product of unfortunate circumstances.
Therefore, if your goal is to make your stepchild love you as much as his or her biological mother, that’s probably not very realistic. What you should want is for your stepchild to love you as a stepmother—a very different love from the kind the child has for his biological mother.
2. Do Something Fun
A little good, old-fashioned, mother-stepchild bonding can go a long way. The more fun activities you do with your stepchild, the more he or she will associate you with positive memories and be more likely to warm up to you.
If your child is under the age of ten, suggest some arts and crafts. Provide positive encouragement, compliment your stepchild’s work, and help him out whenever necessary.
If your stepchild is a preteen or teenager, bonding can often be more difficult. However, suggest taking your teen stepchild to a movie, or an amusement park. If the child is particularly opposed to all of your suggestions, ask him for ideas and show that you care about his input.
3. Talk to Your Spouse
This is the simplest suggestion we can give you, but it’s too often overlooked by stepmothers overly concerned about their child’s opinion of them. Remember that your spouse has known this child since birth. He understands the kid’s thought processes, personality, and interests on a deeper level than you do.
He’s possibly already noticed your stepchild’s aversion to you, but there’s also a good chance he’s still clueless. Talking to him will open up a conversation, and your spouse, who loves both you and the child, can act as a mediator in times of conflict, as well as giving both of you advice regarding how to get along better.
4. Stay Positive
This is good advice to apply in every facet of your life, but it’s especially necessary when talking about your stepchild’s biological mother. If your child hates you, it’s likely because he or she already has a dualistic mentality that pits you against his or her biological mother, and in your stepchild’s eyes, you don’t measure up.
However, the worst thing you could possibly do is to reaffirm this duality by saying disrespectful things about the child’s mother. While you may think it can help turn the child to your side, it will most likely only increase the kid’s bitterness.
Instead, let the child know that you are on his mother’s side and that there is no rivalry. You can do this by being positive whenever the biological mother is mentioned in conversation, regardless of how you actually feel about her.
5. Limit The PDA
The best way to further alienate your stepchild is to send out the wrong message, and the wrong message would be that you don’t care about your spouse’s family and only value his physical attention.
That’s certainly not the case, but if your child sees you constantly smooching or cuddling his or her father, he or she will see you as more of a threat and less of an ally.
Get as lovey-dovey as you want with your husband in private, but when you and your spouse are spending time with your child, make sure the child is included in all activities.
Remember that the child may harbor some resentment towards your father for ending things with his or her mother, but you’re the most concrete scapegoat for he or she to dump that resentment on. Don’t give your stepchild the impression that you’re rubbing it in further.
Those are our recommendations for how to deal with a stepchild that hates you. While we can’t guarantee that following this advice will instantly change your stepchild’s opinion of you, we can assure you that it will help to reduce tension in the family and make you seem more tolerable to the child.
Something important to keep in mind, however, is that you cannot control your stepchild’s thoughts. If you do everything in your power to form healthy relationships with your spouse’s kids, and there are still one or two children who refuse to respect or acknowledge you, that is not your fault.
The best you can do is to monitor your own behavior and your child’s reaction to that behavior. If your stepchild still hates you at that point, it most likely means that he or she has some individual unresolved issues to work through.
However, you can rest assured that you’ve done everything you can and that you are not to blame. And there’s always a chance you’ll develop a relationship in the future.