How to be a happier step-parent

How to be a happier step-parent

28 June 2011, by Phillip Hodson
Stepchildren are nearly indistinguishable from kids you might have produced. But different. What if you decide you simply don’t like them? By psychotherapist Phillip Hodson

Film still from The Omen, courtesy of 20th Century Fox

When my beloved first stayed over for some serious late-night discussions, I suppose it vaguely occurred to me that she already had two children. But in the throes of exquisite exchanges under the influence of alcohol and hormones (a super drink, by the way), key facts get blurred.

Next thing I know I’m airily thinking, “Love her, love everyone about her and especially her delightful offspring”. Then I met them.

Reader, they weren’t my type. This was many years ago and a lot of loving later so I can say it. But really, they weren’t my type of kids.

I thought them gabby, grabby, rude, destructive, aggressive, whiny and attention-seeking.

I realise now what an ignorant prig I was. All children have some of the above splendid qualities and it was ridiculous to expect my life to carry on as before, adding a lovely sexy relationship while two boys (aged three and five) would make no demands.

I got another education a few years later when we produced our own loinfruit. “God, aren’t kids difficult?” I complained. “Sometimes this one’s even worse than the other two.”

Today these young men are as much part of my life as young men can be, and all three boys appear in my will as equal beneficiaries. So how can you transform unwanted step-attachments into love matches?

As I say, it helped me when another child came along to provide some perspective. But the genius of the transition was their mum. She allowed me space and time to go from hater to pater.

The rules were simple. “Two nights out of three you can say anything you like to me about my children, but only to me. Never in front of them. I shan’t agree with a word you utter but I will listen. You can sound off.”

The point remains that stepchildren are not of your blood. They don’t look like you, you haven’t watched over them since they were sprogs, so why on earth would you instantly decide they were little Messiahs?

What you do is get to know them a day at a time and if you treat them with respect and fairness they will eventually repay you with such love and loyalty (after about 36 months of testing you to destruction) that it will melt your heart.

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