How to Mend and Maintain Relationships with Adult Step Children
As a step-parent, you are well aware that the role you play in your spouse’s children’s lives is a difficult one. Establishing bonds when children are young can lighten the stress load of these relationships. Children adapt well to new situations. Over a period time they often come to accept and love step-parents as if they were natural parents. Being a step-parent to an adult child brings on a whole new set of issues and problems.
In most cases, your spouse’s adult children will view you as their parent’s spouse, rather than a step-parent. Adult children do not need parenting, that job has been done. In cases where adult children have made bad choices in their lives, a strained relationship between all parties involved is often the result. One prime example is the adult children committing crimes against the parent and step-parent and refusing to take responsibility for his or her actions.
In cases such as this there will often be a period of non-contact. After some time has passed, either the natural parent or the child will likely make contact. The bond between the two is very strong and regardless of what the child has done, the parent/child bond is very strong. Step-parents often have a more difficult time forgiving such actions. This is completely understandable, and regardless of the desire to have a close knit family, often forgiveness is the most difficult thing for a step-parent to give an adult step-child.
In the eyes of the step-parent, the adult child of their spouse has done something nearly unforgivable. Since there is no parental bond, forgiveness may be dependent on the actions of the offender. If the step-child refuses to take responsibility for their actions, the step-parent often feels as if the child has taken advantage of them. This is true to some extent, while the natural parent feels these emotions as well, they are able to forgive more easily than a non-blood relation.
Step-parents who wish to maintain harmony in their own marriage and bring unity to an otherwise split family, must learn to forgive without condition. This means: do not expect an apology, repayment, or even an admission of guilt. If you cannot find it within yourself to forgive such actions, then you must make an effort to be civil. You need not attempt to gain closeness that once was shared; however, you should attempt to maintain contact, for the sake of your spouse, and for the sake of your family.
If your step-child lies, simply take what they say with a grain of salt, until you can confirm what they have told you is the truth. If your step-child is a thief, prepare ahead of time when they come for a visit. Do not leave valuables in plain sight. Do not allow them to know the location of extra keys to your home or car. Do not allow them to spend time in your home without someone else present.
There are no pinpoint solutions to such complex problems. Forgiveness is by far the preferable choice, though, it is completely understandable if you are unable to give forgiveness without remorse.