Marrying someone with adult children can be challenging enough without them feeling jealous of your position with the children's parent. This could stem from them not having properly dealt with the break between their parents or if they see you as a threat to the relationship they have or hope to have with their parent. In her article, “The Blended Family: Hopes, Fears and Tasks” psychotherapist Beth Strong points out that this jealousy can present itself in several ways, including ignoring your physical presence, ignoring you in conversations, and in vying for the attention and affection of the biological parent.
The Direct Approach
There is a saying that "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure." If there are signs that adult stepchildren are having difficulty and will be in opposition with the marriage as well as with having a healthy relationship with the stepparent, then Strong recommends talking over fears and expectations openly before things get progressively worse. The biological parent can reassure the adult children of the desire to continue to have close ties grow stronger and that they will organize their time accordingly. The new spouse should be engaged in a discussion about ways to incorporate adult stepchildren into family activities such as having weekly games or movie nights to facilitate bonding with the new family unit. If bonding is more difficult than you had planned, a professional family therapist can be consulted.
Plan for Quality Time
You and your spouse should plan and set aside time for bonding with each other as well as with the children. In order for your relationship as a couple to grow, you must make time for intimacy without children. Encourage the spouse who is the biological parent to continue any quality time or special routines they have with their children, such as going over their place for dinner on Friday nights or playing together in the seasonal baseball tournaments. In this way, these adult children will realize that they are still an important part of the life of their parent. During the times that the biological parent spends with the adult children, the other spouse can hang out with friends, family, their own biological children or just enjoy some necessary “me time.”
Be Caring and Compassionate
Despite the fact that your relationship with your adult stepchildren may seem quite bleak, as they are not showing any signs of warming up to you any time soon, try to be caring and kind toward them. Remember that their hesitation to accept you is based in part on feelings of insecurity that you belong to the new family. Instead of attempting to be a parent, you can try to be a friend. Wednesday Martin states that a genuinely warm attitude may eventually win over reluctant stepchildren. Show them that you sincerely care by engaging them in conversation, finding out how they are doing and offering assistance, where possible.
Don’t Take It Too Personally
Avoid taking personal what is done and said to you. This is easier said than done but the reality of the matter is that your stepchildren would have been oppositional to anyone who their parent chose to marry, so says social researcher and parenting expert, Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., in the article, “The Real Reason Children (and Adults) Hate Their Stepmothers.” More than an affront to who you are as an individual, it is rather the position that you occupy that they perceive as threatening to them.
Latoya Newman is a novelist who wrote and published her first novel in 2012. She has a background in education, research and counseling. She taught at the elementary level for eight years, and has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada.