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What’s it like to be a step-child?

Being a step-child can be a wonderful experience, and a lot of fun and so rewarding for everyone involved. I’ve personally had both good and bad experiences and can say with absolute assurance that the bottom line is, whilst every step relationship is unique, all of them require lots of effort at some stage, in order to make them work. What’s more, everyone involved has a responsibility to make it work.

Being a step-child can also be difficult. Having someone else in your life that may occupy a similar role to your parent can be frustrating and confusing, and you may feel anger or resentment. It’s tough because it takes time for the dynamics of a new relationship with your mum or dad’s new partner to settle down, and during that period of negotiation it can be unsettling for everyone. It can be more or less stressful depending on the length of their relationship, the age gap between you and your step-parent, the length of time that lapses between your parents splitting up and one of them finding someone new, and the age you’re at when you’re first introduced. If your other biological parent is still alive you can feel like you’re being disloyal to them simply for getting along with your step-parent. If your other biological parent has passed away, then depending on when this happened, it is likely to be a very emotional time when your remaining parent finds a new partner and introduces you for the first time.

Many adults find it incredibly difficult to adjust to the role of step-parent, and at times you may be able to pick up on any anger or resentment they may feel. You may also feel anger yourself - perhaps your relationship with your mum or dad feels threatened, like there isn’t any room for you anymore. Try to remember that everyone is human, and it isn’t easy from their perspective. That said, your relationship with your parent is a very special bond and deserves to be cherished, protected and nurtured regardless of any romantic relationship they choose to have.

If you’re in a difficult step-relationship with your step-parent, some things to do practically to help the situation include:

A) Talking with your parent. Can they understand what you’re going through? Is there anything they can do to make the situation easier for you? If so, it’s ok to be honest with them – parents generally want to make life as easy as possible for their children and are only too glad to help when they can.

B) Don’t bottle things up, this is likely to make the problem worse. If you can’t talk to your parent then perhaps a brother or sister will understand, or a supportive friend will be able to empathise or offer support.

C) Try and work out the root cause of the problem for yourself; it’s easier to try and solve a problem if you can understand exactly what is happening and why. Be honest with yourself, are you being as kind and welcoming as you could be? Is there anything you could do differently to improve the situation? Once you’ve identified the underlying causes, are you able to work out what role you have to play in the relationship?

D) Try and remember that it’s usually hard for everyone concerned – the child, the step parent and the biological parent. It is common for issues to be ignored or not dealt with properly for upsetting everyone involved, however in my experience this tends to make things worse. It can be helpful to consider that if you’re angry or upset or finding it hard to deal with, then one or other of the people involved are likely to be too.

E) Remember you have a voice. If something is happening that you’re not happy or comfortable with, you should tell someone so they can help you through it or stop the situation from happening.

Step-children – do you remember what it was like when you met your step-parent? What is your relationship like with them now? If you are over 18 and are either the step-child, the step-parent, or the biological parent in your own blended family and would like to talk things through, don't hesitate to reach out and book a consultation.

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