Stepparenting is one of the most rewarding and one of the hardest, pride-swallowing endeavors one can ever undertake. Unlike traditional adoption, your child and your significant other both have a past that they shared together before you. They also may have shared this time with the birth mother or father of your child. If your stepchild’s birth parent is still involved, there may be ongoing conflict or tension that may arise as you are the outsider, whether you feel it or not.
While the media has typically portrayed the stepparent/birth parent relationship as a tumultuous one, it does not have to be. The main concept to remember is that your child is now a part of you both. Just as you would not like your child to view you in a negative light, neither does the birth parent, especially if the birth parent is still in the picture. Even if a child’s birth parent is not in the picture for any reason, they are always going to be a part of them. It is crucial to keep your speech as positive as possible for your child’s confidence and sense of self. This will also aid in your relationship with a birth parent remaining positive if they know you do not speak ill of them.
If you are a stepparent to a child who still sees or speaks with their birth parent, even if the communication is infrequent, try to be the peace in the situation. When I married my husband, my 10-year-old stepson came as part of the package. While I loved him immediately and still love him like my own, I recognized that he had a mother before me. Luckily for him and for me, his mother is a fantastic and involved mother. It was nerve wracking in the beginning to wonder what our relationship would be like. However, I made the decision in the beginning to be the peace. I made my son feel loved by me, just as a mother would, but also made sure he and his mom knew that I was not there to replace anyone. My relationship with him was a new and differing relationship than he had with his mom. I made sure everyone knew it was okay to not compare the two. I was not trying to be her or take their relationship away. It is always the goal to add love to a child’s life, not try to replace it or take it away.
To coexist with your stepchild’s birth parent, be the soft, kind, loving, steady element in your child’s life. Even if your child’s birth parent still is not receptive, what he or she does not change who you need to be for your child. Put your child before your pride. If you can find a way to make peace with your child’s birth parent, it will be incredibly life giving to your child and for all involved.