I’ve only been a stepmother for a little over a year so I’m clearly no expert on how to completely get over feeling rejected at times in my new family. However, there are a few tips I’ve learned over the course of dating someone with two children and becoming a stepparent that I want to share with you.
Don’t Take Everything Personally (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
Every stepfamily situation is different. In my case, my stepson was in college when I married his dad but my stepdaughter was 15 years old and living with us. Living with a new teenager presents a host of challenges all on its own, as any parent with teens can attest to. I never knew whether she was upset at me, her father, everyone or just being a typical teenager.
In the beginning, I took every perceived slight from my stepdaughter as a direct show of resentment towards me. I was convinced that her not wanting to spend time with me automatically meant that she did not like me. For all I know, that may have been completely true back then. However, as I will go into shortly, that changed.
At some point, I had to have an honest conversation with my husband to let him know how I felt. I was convinced at some points that my stepdaughter wanted nothing to do with me. My conversations with him helped me in so many ways. My husband was able to reassure me that some of her moods were simply a part of her personality as she navigated becoming a woman.
In fact, he assured me that she was displaying some of the same behavior towards him as well. I’m sure this makes me sound petty, but I was RELIEVED to hear that. It wasn’t just me that had these challenges with her moods and attitude.
What about your situation? Are you a new stepparent to a teenager? My situation taught me that children, especially teenagers, are going through so many issues as they navigate adolescence. They are facing pressures in life the same way we do as adults. Their way of handling it may be to retreat to their rooms or sulk in silence. This does not mean that you have done anything wrong.
Reading and meditating on the scripture at Ecclesiastes 7:9 also helped me. That scripture says:
Don’t let your spirit rush to be angry,
for anger abides in the heart of fools.
Instead of overreacting, find somewhere private and have an honest conversation with yourself. Consider how to apply that scripture practically in your relationship with your stepchild. No matter their age, we want to be patient, not jumping to conclusions and certainly not becoming angry because they are not responding the way we expect them to.
If you need help creating a relaxing atmosphere to have a private moment to conduct a self-reflection, why not set up your own mood area at home or wherever you can find privacy? Try the below essential oils to help clear your head and determine the best way you can personally apply the scripture in Ecclesiastes chapter 7 and verse 9.
Focus on the Progress That You Are Making
As imperfect people, sometimes we only see the glass as half empty. When it comes to building any type of relationship, we should not focus on what isn’t working or on everything that we are doing wrong. We should give ourselves grace and celebrate the progress we have made adapting to our new environment and family.
Sometimes the positive changes were happening so slowly that I did not recognize them. Eventually, I took a moment and reflected on what I accomplished over the course of my courtship; from dating to the engagement period and now as an official member of the family.
My relationship with my stepdaughter may not be like the Gilmores (from Gilmore Girls, one of my favorite tv shows and yes, you’ve probably seen me refer to that show in another post,) but it is certainly better than it was at the beginning.
Once again, I encourage you to take a moment for yourself and seriously consider how your relationship as a stepfamily is now compared to when you first started dating. Look for the simple differences that you are experiencing now. In my case, my stepdaughter now assists me in bringing in grocery bags and putting away the groceries. She also offers me some of the new vegan dishes she prepares for herself.
These may seem like simple things, but for me, this shows major success towards building a successful stepfamily unit. Think about the things your stepchild is sharing with you now that they never did before. Are they asking to spend time with you? Telling you about school or their plans for the future? Or maybe they are asking you to help them with things that they never would have asked in the past.
What if you are the one with children. Do you know how your spouse is truly feeling? Do they feel dejected at times because it seems that they are getting nowhere in connecting with your children? Go out together on a date and talk. Find out how they feel the relationship with your child is going.
The next step would be to commend them for the effort that they are putting in and reassure them of all the progress they are already making. Sometimes we simply need someone to point out what we are too emotionally distraught to see for ourselves.
Be Patient and Do Not Give Up (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
If you have been a stepparent for a long while now and still feel as if you have not made any progress, consider the words found at Ecclesiastes 7:8 (Christian Standard Bible):
The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
a patient spirit is better than a proud spirit.
What’s the practical application of this scripture? Do not give up! No matter how hard it seems in the beginning, do everything that YOU can do. It is up to the rest of your extended family to respond accordingly. This may happen quickly or over a long period of time. The goal of becoming a close-knit family isn’t to see how quickly this will happen but that it does happen.
As the scripture brings out, do not focus on the rocky beginning of your relationships. It is the end that counts. Ask yourself how things are with you and your stepchild right now. Are you both happy? Are you able to have a nice family discussion at the dinner table? Discuss school and work with each other?
On the other hand, if you to be careful that you do not develop an “eye for an eye” mentality. What does this mean? For example, if your stepchild refuses to communicate with you for months but then suddenly needs your help. What would your reaction be?
Would you decide not to help them since they have not shown any willingness to help bond with you? Take being proud out of the equation. Developing a “patient spirit” will aid you in feeling less rejected by your new family as well as guide you in developing a secure connection with them.
Ask Questions and Show Understanding
If you feel that you are doing everything you can do but have seen zero results, try asking questions. Our first reaction is to feel rebuffed when we try to be friends with someone who isn’t giving us the time of day. However, instead of keeping your disappointment to yourself, try speaking with them privately.
Choose a comfortable setting and ask them what you can do to become friends with them. Are there any activities that both of you can do together? I’m talking about quality time with you and your stepchild without your spouse involved. Ask them questions, listen to their response without interrupting and then take action on what you have learned.
Be interested in what they are interested in. My stepdaughter was recently the Stage Manager of her school play, Annie, and I used this opportunity to support her in every way possible. To read more about that experience, take a look at my post, Attending School Events as a Stepparent.
Be prepared for the raw and honest truth and try to be understanding. Each situation is different and you want to be respectful of their age, opinions, and situation.
For example, in my personal situation, my stepdaughter’s mother passed away. The way I respond to her would be different from a stepparent whose child’s biological parent is still in their life. You may decide to speak with their parent and get some ideas (depending on the relationship between the two of you of course.)
Another suggestion would be for the three of you to go somewhere fun together and get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere. If your spouse isn’t close with their ex, plan to do something as a family when your stepchild is with you and your spouse.
Once again, be prepared for the fact that your stepchild may not feel comfortable spending quality time with you right away. Show patience and understanding and be prepared for when they are ready to spend time with you.
Set Realistic Expectations
A fair warning: these tips may seem simple but they aren’t easy to implement. This is especially true if you are a new stepparent with no clue what to expect (sounds familiar?) or if you’ve been a stepparent for a while now but feel as if you haven’t made any progress fitting in, especially with your stepchild.
To be perfectly honest, you may never get the exact relationship that you want with your stepchild. Try not to let their attitude affect your treatment of them.
Continue to be yourself and to treat them with affection, kindness, and love. You never know when their circumstances will cause them to draw close to you instead of fighting against you.
Do you have any other tips to share to help parents who are feeling rejected by their children? Comment with them below!