Stepfamily Reality 19 - Affirming Stepparents

        Some stepkids steadily reject a stepparent's genuine affection and support for no "logical" reason. Perversely, the nicer the stepparent is, the more hostile or indifferent the child may be. Or a stepparent can offer caring friendship, discipline and guidance to their stepkids to find that their spouse disagrees with these, or resents their "interference" with the child. Both result in stressful loyalty conflicts, and relationship triangles. 

       A stepchild may feel "If I show appreciation to my stepparent, my 'real' (same-sex biological) parent will feel bad!" The child's custodial bio-mom or biodad can feel "if I side with your (the stepparent's) discipline of my child, s/he, my ex, or other kin will resent, criticize, and reject me."

       Typical biofamily adults usually don't expect overt thanks from their kids for their caregiving efforts and sacrifices. Average stepparents do expect and need at least periodic acknowledgment of, if not gratitude for, their co-parenting efforts from their mate and their stepkids. Hinting for, requesting, or demanding appreciation is self-defeating, since it can only be given spontaneously. A useful alternative is to use a respectful "I" message like "When you don't acknowledge what I do for you, I feel ignored and hurt."

        Since typical minor stepkids didn't request their parent's divorce and re/marriage and had no say in choosing their step-kin, they may not feel grateful for even the kindest stepparenting - specially if they're still grieving. In the best case, stepparents may hear "thanks" some years after their stepkids leave home. This does not mean stepparents should endure disrespect from a stepchild without setting and enforcing personal boundaries!