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Battling for the hearts and minds of the stepchildren

Marie Berbick

Monday, October 02, 2017


SO you have found happiness again with remarriage, or at least you hope to. He or she is just wonderful, and they have made you believe in love again. However, there is one obstacle — perhaps a big one — standing between you both, and it can come in a small package or in several packages of various ages — ranging from very young to adult.

Many people underestimate the significant role that stepchildren play in the success of their relationship or marriage. Some have been fortunate enough to inherit stepchildren who have not caused them serious marital problems, but others have not been so lucky. It might come as a surprise, but Psychology Today lists stepchildren as “the single greatest predictor that a marriage will fail”. Yes, it is that serious. So what are some of the challenges that often come with dating or marrying someone who has children from a previous relationship?


1. Don't underestimate the power wielded by stepchildren over the success of your relationship

The biggest mistake you can make is to enter a relationship with someone who has a child or children from a previous relationship without having a plan to deal with them. Stepchildren exert significant influence over relationships. If you decide to marry someone that your children resent, be prepared for stormy days ahead. The attitude of those children will determine whether your marriage succeeds or fails.


2. You should court stepchildren too

Stepchildren can make or break your relationship. During the courtship, it's important to recognise that you are not just courting their mom or dad — you are also courting them. It's a package deal, so start thinking about the importance of winning over the children. Start thinking 'inclusive' when you plan certain activities, so that they won't feel left out or threatened that you are taking up all of their mother's or father's time. While winning over the stepchildren will make life easier, you also need to establish some rules of give and take. Make it clear to them that although their feelings are important to you, you also expect them to be respectful of your partner and your relationship.


3. Boys are super protective of their mothers

Most men dating women with sons have had to prepare themselves for combat. Boys are extremely protective of their mothers and are often jealous of all suitors. Some men have told me that they were actually forced out of a woman's life by her son. A man who wants to get close to a woman who has sons should learn the psychology of getting those boys comfortable enough to trust him around their mom. Men, be mindful also that you may have to teach those boys how to be men by how you treat their mother. Despite their feelings of jealousy they will respect you for treating her well.


4. Stepmothers are more likely to be resented than stepfathers

Why do we hear more about the evil stepmother than the evil stepfather? Studies have shown that stepmothers are treated worse than stepfathers. James Bray and Mavis Hetherington, who have done exhaustive studies on stepparent relationships, found that less than 20 per cent of adult stepchildren showed any liking for their stepmothers, and it had nothing to do with them seeing her as a homewrecker. It was mainly resentment born out of a sense of loyalty to their own mother.


5. It's not just the younger stepchildren who will resent you

The younger ones might throw a tantrum, give you the cold shoulder, refuse to take instructions from you, and crush you pretty often with the words every stepparent dreads: “You're not my daddy” or “You're not my mom!” However, the younger stepchildren can sometimes be the least of your problems. When it comes to awareness of inheritance, property and other assets, the older stepchildren are the ones with whom you are likely to have your biggest battles.


A relationship/marriage with stepchildren can work, but it takes extra effort on the part of both partners and the children involved.


Marie Berbick, aka The PR Girl, is a communications specialist, motivational speaker and founder of the women's ministry Sisters United for Prayer, Healing, Empowerment & Restoration. Follow her on Twitter @thePR Girl and on Facebook @ Marie Berbick. Email