Like many Circle of Mom members who are step moms, Bianca N. has a dirty little secret: “It’s been a tough ride with my husband’s kids,” she says of life with her 11- and 12-year-olds step kids. “[My husband] is one of those parents who is guilty about not having them full time so lets them get away with so much and I cannot stand that.” And she wonders, "Am I terrible for disliking my step children?
Mellody D. thinks not. As she explains, "You can love a man so much, and want to be with him, but you don’t have to like his kids.” And Kelly Z. echoes the thoughts of many step-moms who have struggled to bond with reluctant step children when she asserts that step-moms “aren’t terrible for not really liking their [step] kids."
The good news is that these two moms both feel that confronting this truth is the first step towards coming up with solutions. "Once you accept that [you don't yet love them], there are ways step moms can keep their marriages intact and create a better relationship with their step children (or at least keep peace)." Here, Kelly, Mellody, and other step-moms who have achieved that measure of peace with their step kids offer six tried-and-true tactics for getting through the tough parts.
1. Establish Household Rules
In order to keep tensions at bay and emotions from exploding, Kelly Z. and other Circle of Mom step moms advise setting up rules. “Sit down together and make a list of rules for your house that everyone has to follow,” she says. “Then the next time his kids are over, you both should sit down with them and go over the rules with them.”
2. Have a Heart-to-Heart With Your Husband
When you marry a man with kids, it’s pretty typical that he will expect you to automatically love them, say Circle of Moms members like Lisa B. But relationships can take time, and it’s a good idea to “have a heart to heart with your husband about how you really feel. She adds, "The issues with them not cleaning after themselves need to be discussed with their father. He should be the one setting his foot down.”
Mellody D. recommends talking with your husband and telling him he needs to step in to help with this relationship. “Explain to him that you are at least trying, but you can’t like everyone in the world. Tell him if he wants you to live with him, and have the kids around, then they need to start treating you and your home with more respect.”
3. Get Help from the Children’s Mom
Though it is the stuff movies are made of, not all relationships between the first wife and the step-mom have to be adversarial, say several Circle of Moms members. In fact, the children’s mom could be your best ally in improving the relationship, says Catreal W. “I realize that at the end of the day no matter how hard I work at raising my step sons they will always love their mom more,” she says. “But it shouldn’t be that the real mom hates you, and step moms and real moms should try to get along. That would help the kids see they don’t have to pick favorites and that there is enough love for many people in their lives.”
That’s exactly how Dana H., who calls herself “the real mom," helped forge a relationship between her children and their step mom. “She is great to my daughter, and I respect her for it,” says Dana. “I treat her with respect because she treats my daughter with respect.”
4. Give it Time
Divorce can rock the world for families, and so step moms need to realize it takes time for children to warm up to someone they could perceive is replacing their mom, says Jodi H. “You don't have to completely bond right away and be involved in everything immediately,” she says. “Take baby steps and be satisfied with the day to day progress. It is very important that you remember that you are not the parent and that you can't (and shouldn't want to) take the place of the mother. The way I view being a step-mom is that in our family my step daughter has three loving adults raising her. Her mother, her father, and I. “
5. Be Responsible and Consistent
Though they may not admit it, children need and appreciate structure and consistency. Valerie H. suggests being “a responsible, consistent parent, whether they like it or not and [asking] your spouse to support you in your role so that you model a healthy working relationship for your kids to model in the future." That, she believes, "will help build trust and acceptance for you as step mom.”
6. Admit it Hurts
Not being accepted can be hurtful and so it is important to acknowledge those feelings, points out Deana A. “I'm the one they feel safe enough to treat like crap, so even though it hurts, I guess that means I'm more "mom" than step mom,” she says. “It is okay if it hurts.”
Jacqueline S. offers the long perspective: “In the begining, their mom would make strange comments in my presence as to say she could still be with my man and that I may not be fit for the step-mom position. The kids would scream, ‘You’re not my mom!’ and it hurt, but I never let them see it did. As time passed it got better.”
What advice do you have for getting along with your step kids?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.