Blended families struggle to succeed against what is commonly known as the natural familial experience. Generally, a child clings to his biological parents. It is not natural for a child to cling to any other. Likewise, a parent usually clings to their biological child. The biological parent-child glue is so strong that it becomes the standard by which the love of a stepparent is measured. Many stepparents are aware of the standard and are bothered by it.
A lose lose situation.
If the stepparent does not love their stepchild as their own (or on the same level as their biological child) they are often met with criticism and contempt. Many times they are met with the level of contempt that is deemed appropriate for a stepparent who confessed to hating their stepchild. Not loving the stepchildren the same as they love their own children, and not loving them at all are two different things.
A stepparent's feelings are shaped by their experiences, just as any other person's feelings are shaped. The difference is a stepparent does not have the biological predisposition to love their stepchild because their stepchild did not come from their womb/loins. Therfore, a stepparent's positive feelings for their stepchild should not be negated just because they are not as strong as the feelings they have for their biological children. Many times a stepparent who has positive feelings towards a stepchild can grow to deeply love a stepchild, and in some cases - love a stepchild the same as biological child - if they are given the opportunity to develop a relationship at a comfortable pace.
Some say love is a choice - is it?
Faced with the possibility of receiving contempt and criticism for not loving their stepchild as their own, some stepparents hold their real feelings inside. They may become bitter, feel like the demands are unreasonable, and/or may harbor negative feelings - due to things that have taken place in their blended family that are directly related to their stepchild. After all, a stepparent is socially required to invest mentally, emotionally and financially in a child whose future they may never get credit for investing in. (This, however, has a lesser chance of happening when the child is a biological child.) When a stepparent harbors negative feelings it puts a strain on blended family.
When a stepparent is sent messages such as 'liking a stepchild is not good enough' or 'getting along with a stepchild is not good enough - you must love them as your own' it causes stress. They feel forced. This may cause them to become emotionally hyper-sensitive. When that happens, literally, anything the stepchild does becomes a big problem. Regular parental issues - ones that are common to biological, adoptive, and stepparent - become major issues. These regular issues can consist of a stepchild slacking off on chores and homework, talking on the phone too much, spending too much time online and/or playing video games, or not allowing younger siblings in their room. However in a step-family - especially in one where the stepparent feels under-appreciated, and emotionally devalued - these "regular issues" can be the beginning of sorrows.
Other complaints, specific to step-families, involve dealing with a child who does not want their parent to be married to their stepparent, dealing with a stepchild who may use guilt and/or manipulation to get what they want, and/or dealing with a stepchild who does not listen to the stepparent when he or she is left in charge. There is also the matter of step-bullying between step-siblings, which is what happens when a child is habitually cruel or overbearing, or behaves like a bully to his or her step-brothers or step-sisters. Step-bullying can further divide a step-family, by causing members divide along biological lines.
The reality of blended families is that they take years to "blend". It is extremely uncomfortable, and sometimes mentally and emotionally painful, for members while they are attempting to blend. As a result over 60 percent of blended families fail. Requiring a stepparent to love a stepchild as their own, instead of allowing them to grow into those feelings is one way to add stress to an already stressful situation. A stepparent who loves his or her stepchild should be appreciated, without adding the additional clause "as you love your own." The standard is nearly impossible to reach. Many new stepparents will discover that the standard even exists, after they have already formed a blended family through marriage. While it is not acceptable to show blatant favoritism for children in a blended family, stepparents who love their stepchildren; and those who also help to protect and provide for their stepchildren should be appreciated without negative comparison.
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