What if I don’t have strong loving feelings toward my stepchildren?
Many stepparents confess that they don’t have deep feelings for their stepchildren. Some assume that the love they feel for their new spouse will automatically create loving feelings for their spouse’s children. As many stepparents find out, however, feelings of love for stepchildren are usually not so easy or natural. As a result, some stepparents feel guilty for not “loving” their stepchildren as much as they think they should. 1 They try harder, but often it’s met with more disappointment and guilt.
It’s comforting — even freeing — to know that stepparents aren’t obligated to feel strong attachment to their stepchildren. While affectionate feelings are ideal in relationships, they are not necessary to cultivating healthy relationships with stepchildren.
Our actions of love and service on behalf of another family member are more important than our feelings. Stepparents can make choices to love their stepchildren in tangible ways, even if they are not experiencing the warm feelings they wish they had. What matters most in a family are the acts of love demonstrated through serving one another, not the feelings of love ( 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ; 1 John 3:16-18 ).
It’s also important to treat stepchildren with grace. That includes those who are distant, angry, and difficult to live with. Extending grace doesn’t mean that we overlook problems. Instead, we treat our stepchildren the way we want to be treated, with respect and kindness ( Matthew 7:12 ; Philippians 2:3-4 ). We give them the discipline and guidance they need, remembering that we, too, were once their age. Even during the difficult times, stepparents should do what is right and fair for their stepchildren ( Proverbs 1:3, 21:3 ; 2 Thessalonians 3:13 ). An attitude of truth with grace fosters a healthy relationship between you and your stepchildren.
Relationships are complex and for a range of reasons, some stepparents and stepchildren don’t grow close. Even so, you can be the kind of stepparent who loves his or her stepchildren through acts of service with an attitude of grace. Your loving actions, with or without the loving feelings, honor your stepchildren, encourage warmhearted rapport and model the tender heart of Jesus Christ.
- To be expected, many stepchildren don’t instinctively have warm feelings of love for their stepparents. Because of strong loyalty ties to their biological parents, feelings of loss, a lack of history together, as well as other reasons, feelings of love for their stepparents don’t come automatically for many stepchildren. Back To Article