By Dani Lanvgevin – September
Too many of us find ourselves divorced. For those of us with children, this means that we may find ourselves looking for another partner who will be able to love us, as well as our children. Too many times, however, people only settle for the first part. This is not acceptable. If you find yourself with a partner who is incapable or unwilling to love your children, leave them. If you find yourself with a partner whose children you are incapable or unwilling to love the advice is the same – leave them!
Children of divorce are damaged. Their entire world has been ripped to shreds and they will never be the same. They need more love, more patience and more understanding than ever before. They do not need to be reminded that they are not perfect. Children know that. They do not need to be reminded that they are not the product of their stepparent. They are painfully aware of that. And they certainly do not need to be singled out, compared to or separated from their stepsiblings by not being treated equally. If this is going on in your household, you are either with the wrong person, or you are the wrong person.
I am both a partner of a stepparent and I am a stepparent. It is not easy to embrace other people’s children as your own, but when my wife and I met over fifteen years ago, we knew that our happiness was contingent upon our ability to keep our children happy and make them feel loved, accepted and safe. We waited almost three years to move in with each other, talked frequently about how to deal with each other’s children and made no distinguishing differences between how we treated them and how we loved them. I am not a perfect parent. I am not a perfect stepparent, but I worked hard at being the best of those things to the best of my ability. I can honestly say that I love my two stepsons as much as I do my daughter. I can’t imagine my life without them. I believe, at least that’s what they tell me, that they are aware of how much I love and cherish them both.
As a mother who has sent three children to two other households with stepparents, and a friend to many stepparents and teacher to hundreds of step children, I have seen the many ways in which stepparents fall way too short of loving their step children and the damage it has done. I have heard of stepparents piling their own kids into the family mini-van, allowing their children to invite friends and then telling their stepchildren that there is not enough room for them to go to the beach. I have heard them badmouth their ex-spouses in front their children, feigning ignorance about the damage it is doing to their own children. I have heard the nasty comments stepparents made to their stepchildren making them feel little and unloved. I have heard of stepparents convincing the biological parent that their child does not need to be part of the step family’s holiday traditions, denying them items needed and then systematically alienating them from their own child. What is more maddening is that the biological parent allowed it to happen.
Children are not pawns. They are not possessions and their emotions are not expendable. Children, especially stepchildren, need extra patience and TLC. The adults in their lives need to step up and be the adults. Children are our most precious gift and if you treat them, or allow them to be treated as anything less than that, then you don’t deserve them. Mark my words, if you treat your stepchildren or allow your children to be treated as anything less than every child needs to be, it will come back and bite you hard in the backside. They may be young, vulnerable and seemingly oblivious, but they will remember every single disparaging remark, every single brush off, every single put down and every single moment you made them feel less than loved. When they come of age you will undoubtedly pay for your sins.