Children’s Feelings Of Loyalty in Stepfamilies

February 12th, 2013 posted by Susan Wilkins-Hubley

While we are forming a stepfamily I entered my marriage expecting instant loyalty from the children. I wanted our stepfamily to appear as a normal family. Yet our stepfamily became an interesting mix of personalities with different routines, habits and expectations of each other. My stepdaughter sometimes worries about being disloyal to her natural mother. “Emma” has , at the age of six felt as though her mom won’t like it if she likes her stepmother, or that if she listened to me, something bad would happen between her mother and herself. A child caught in this loyalty bind can resent a stepparent doing a good job and present a confusing set of tasks for her stepparent and her natural parents to accomplish amongst themselves. Another stepmother I know, “Beth”, wanted to take “Brandon” to the public library on Sundays. However, “Brandon’s” natural mother did not take him to the library. Brandon enjoyed the library trips so much that his positive feelings caused him to feel deeply disloyal to his natural mother. Brandon perhaps could have been saying to himself “I shouldn’t be liking this so much.” It’s a shame a small child should feel guilt in this way. The child never asked nor did he expect to become a child of a blended/divorced family. It is an unnatural road to travel, even for the most well adjusted children. It takes a long time to build up a sense of loyalty; for my stepdaughter it may take many years. A first-time family grows together and bonds to one another over many years, or as many years that they are together as a family . These close feelings, stepfamilies do not experience. They do not always get to provide the physical care that is so important to parent-child bonding in the early years.

Stepfamily Problems : How to Solve Them Straightforward, down-to-earth answers about the whos, the whys, and the whens of anger, resentment, and conflicts blended families experience.

A suggestion for stepparents: find a few activities that allow a close stepparent/child relationship to develop. If the stepparent and the child share an interest, there is more opportunity to grow and develop a bond. A stepmother and stepdaughter may both enjoy gardening, shopping or talking walks for “unfound treasure”. A stepfather and stepson both may love football. This gives adults and children marvellous opportunities to grow and bond together. What works with one child may not necessarily work with another. If the stepfather who likes football also has a stepson who prefers to read science fiction, there may be less opportunity for sharing with this child. However, the stepfather can make an effort to try to explore the areas of interest and perhaps even gain a new hobby or interest himself, which can be a very worthwhile experience for the child! Loyalty and bonding always take time to develop and grow. The very loving intentions offered by stepparents can be rejected. Go slowly and look for activities that will interest the child and thus hopefully develop a sense loyalty and comfort for the family.

about the author Susan Wilkins-Hubley is a 29 year old Canadian stepmom to two young children and biological mother to two more. Her family is complete with “his”, “her” and “our” children, however all family members find themselves in the “ours” category. Susan has been a stepmom for over four years and has experienced the trials and tribulations that most other stepmoms face day to day.

Susan tries to keep her family at peace by mothering all of her children consistently and wearing ear plugs a lot of the time 🙂 Visit Susan’s website The Second Wives Club

Susan Wilkins-Hubley (10 Posts)

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