Family Ties: What About Her Kids?

Family Ties: What About Her Kids?

I’m Dating a Woman with Children Who Don’t Like Me. Will They Like Me in Time?

Q: I am dating a woman, Amanda, who is divorced and has two children (ages 11 and 14) from her former marriage. I don’t have any children and do not plan to have any kids in the future. I want a future with Amanda, but it is obvious that her children do not like me. If Amanda and I get married, as we are thinking of doing, will her children grow to like me? And if they don’t, can our marriage survive?

A: Whether or not Amanda’s children grow to like you, know that Amanda and her kids are a package deal. If you realize from the start that her children may not like or accept you, you may not be as disappointed in the future when you face their rejection, disrespect, or hostility.

Stepchildren typically have a hard time accepting a new stepparent into their lives. Common feelings and reactions children have to their divorced mother’s boyfriends and new husbands include jealousy, resentment, anger, hatred, and dislike. It may be a long and difficult process for you to win even their respect, never mind their affection.

It is important that you, and Amanda, are patient with her children; give them time to get to know you. Participate in enjoyable activities with the children on a regular basis, so they associate being with you with having fun. Teach them something new: how to fly a kite, how to juggle, how to do a magic trick (or whatever particular skills you have that children might be interested in). Spend some time alone with them on occasion doing fun things, and be supportive of Amanda spending time alone with her children without you.

Avoid criticizing or punishing the children and try to be positive with them and compliment them on their strengths, accomplishments, and good behavior. Also, avoid saying anything negative or critical about their biological father. Many stepchildren, over time, do develop good, loving relationships with their stepfathers. In some cases, they may be adults before they are able to accept and appreciate a stepparent.

It is important that you, and Amanda, have realistic expectations and are patient. You and Amanda should focus on meeting each other’s needs in your relationship. If the children grow to like you, that is a bonus. All you can do is try to give the children reasons to like you (e.g. you do fun things with them and are nice to them) and avoid giving the children reasons to dislike you.

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