Life in a Doll House

Too often, as a struggling stepparent, it’s easy to lose yourself in self-pity, resentment and jealousy—and, amid it all, forget what the kids are enduring.

Grappling with the separation of their biological parents—not to mention also adjusting to the idea that one or both parents now have new partners—is a devastating process for the children.

Yes, it is important that you focus on your new relationship, as a stepcouple, to provide a strong foundation for the whole stepfamily. But it is of equal importance that you maintain awareness and compassion for the kids, who must now suffer against the absence of a biological parent.

Rather than compete with the loyalty children can’t help but feel toward the now-absent bio-parent, strive to understand, with consciousness and empathy, its significance.

Children are naturally bonded to their biological parents—present or absent. Kids will protect their parents unconditionally and interminably, as if by instinct. Nonsensical as it may seem, this sort of loyalty only grows with the bio-parent’s absence.

Understand that this is natural. It can be easy to see this as unfair—after all, you’re the one who does all the work and provides the support. Still, the biological bond cannot be broken. All you can do is support the kids through the anger, sadness and confusion they’re bound to feel at the loss of a bio-parent.

How, specifically, can you do this? I encourage awareness of just how deep and powerful these losses are—think about the kids and, whenever possible, do what’s in their best interest. That will always serve you well.

Stepcoupling is all about keeping present and former relationships appropriately inclusive and alive for as long as is feasible and healthy, allowing the kids to make their own decision as they mature.

What relationships can you keep alive and well in your family, biological and otherwise?

I’ve posed the following questions for guidance:

  • Do the children have access to their biological parents?
  • Do they have permission to have a relationship with their absent biological parent without bias?
  • What part do you play in making that happen? And what obstacles do you face?
  • As a stepcouple, how do you encourage and support each other when frustration, resentment and anger take over?

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