Overcoming Problems with Step Children
We have previously talked about preventative measures such as scheduling family meetings, formulating rules and rituals, and how to discipline and communicate with our children and step-children. But what happens when we have done all these things, and problems still occur?
Sometimes the route of all evil can be jealousy. There are many players in the average step-family, and jealousy can be evident between siblings and step-siblings, the step-children and the step-parent, and even between the step parent and the biological parent. Jealousy can sometimes occur over tangible items like bedrooms and holidays when one person sees their situation to be less fortunate than another in the family.
Another type of jealousy is imagined jealousy. This is where there is no real basis for the jealousy but is imagined. Children are often jealous of a new baby brother or sister thinking that their mother or father won’t love them anymore. Jealousy can often stem from having low self esteem, and the child compares themselves to the other children, believing he or she is less important, less loved or less valued.
If you suspect that the children in your step-family could be jealous of other children, the first thing to do is acknowledge the jealousy by saying things like “I know it must be hard to have to share things”. Avoid statements like “don’t be jealous” and “you’ll just have to learn to share”.
Recognise the huge adjustment for the child and the losses he or she has experienced. Those losses won’t matter to the child as much if parents and step-parents make the child feel loved and secure. Be interested in what the child is doing, make special time together and work on building a one on one relationship with each child individually.
Imagine how it would feel for a child to see their mum or dad with a new partner. Some kids respond well and some don’t. This is largely because the child may feel the need to compete with the new partner for time, affection and attention with their parent.
If you are on the receiving end of a child’s jealousy, the first thing to do is understand and normalise it. Feeling jealous doesn’t make a child bad or naughty, just normal. The biological parent must ensure that the child gets the time, affection and attention they require.
Some kids respond badly because they have not been appropriate informed about what is going on. A child copes better when their parent sits down with them and tells them about their new relationship and how happy this person makes them feel. Create opportunities, gradually, for the step-parent to be included but recognise that the child will always want one-on-one time with his parent.
The formation of a new step-family can be likened to a field filled with landmines.?Once you clear one path, then another problem presents itself.
Something that is quite often overlooked is the child’s birth order, or the age position he or she sits in the family.?Birth order is considered to influence personality characteristics which usually stay with a person for life.?Let’s look at the characteristics of the various categories briefly.?They are not absolute truths, but you may be surprised at the similarities.
The oldest child usually develops a sense of responsibility.?They have had some experience with the raising of their younger siblings which makes them more likely to be nurturing, critical, independent and even bossy.
The middle child can have the perception that they are “second fiddle” and treated unfairly.?They are more than likely to be followers than leaders, lack in confidence, quiet and shy.?They can also be highly competitive.
The youngest child is given more freedom and therefore develops a sense of adventure and creativity.?They are usually playful and friendly, but sometimes irresponsible and dependent on others.
The only child is more often around adults than children and therefore tends to be self sufficient, independent and selfish.? They are generally high-achievers.