The Stepfather of the Child

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As more and more failed marriages end in divorce, and children in most cases stay with their mother after their parents’ divorce, so do more and more children end up living with their stepfather. Practice teaches us that a stepfather can be a full-fledged replacement for a father. Moreover, sometimes a stepfather is a better father in a psychological sense than a born father. In order for the stepfather to be able to create a positive emotional relationship with the stepchild, some conditions must be met. First of all, it is necessary for the stepfather to be a calm, emotionally stable person, a man of cheerful temper, and an active attitude towards life. In addition, it is necessary that he loves children, understands them and is happy to get involved. After all, this trait usually stems from the former: emotional maturity regularly contains emotional interest in children as well. But it is also necessary that the stepfather sincerely loves his wife, that is, the mother of his stepchild. It is the strongest motive that will encourage him to fall in love with her child as well. When the stepfather does not want to have a stepchild, then it is a sign that his attitude towards the woman is colored by a strong selfishness that calls into question the value and strength of his love.

A divorced mother had the opportunity to remarry, but her chosen one flatly refused to live with her 5-year-old son, even though the housing circumstances allow it. In order to achieve the marriage she wanted, the mother handed the child over to her parents for upbringing, in another place, although we advised her not to do so because the boy would become alienated from her. A year later, her father and mother died, so she had no choice but to take the child with her. But his stepfather started abusing him, so the boy developed a neurotic reaction in the form of stuttering. He explained his behavior towards his stepson by saying that the child allegedly bothered him in the intimacy with his wife. But with a little goodwill, they could arrange their sex life in such a way that the boy would not interfere with it at all. The real reason for the stepfather’s intolerance of the stepson was his excessive egocentrism, which manifested itself in a repulsive attitude towards children in general, and even in resentment towards the stepson. But neurotic selfishness radiates to all areas of life activity when shown in one. That is why his marriage was not spared from this obstacle in adaptability to other people. The woman soon began to feel that her husband was much more with her because of an instinctive lust for her than because of an emotional interest in her. She was increasingly learning that he occasionally needed her for sexual pleasure, but that as a man, as a person, he didn’t really need her. She realized that this man had never sincerely loved her, so he couldn’t love her child either.

By treating the stepchild in a paternal way, the stepfather has a double benefit. A positive emotional relationship with the child, his trust and loyalty, allow him to raise a young person properly and to avoid various troubles with the child. A stepfather, like no educator, cannot remain with the stepchild in an indifferent relationship. If it does not attract him to itself, it will repel him from itself, and thus the child will cause various behavioral disorders and neurotic reactions. Therefore, one should not refrain from tenderness towards the stepchild, nor should one be carried away by the prejudice that one should not engage too much with the child because he is not his father. When he shows love to his stepchild, the stepfather also strengthens his emotional connection with the mother. If she loves her child at all, her love for her husband will deepen when she feels that he loves him too.

The stepfather is sometimes jealous of his stepchild because he feels, or fears, that the woman loves her child more than him. Such an emotional situation in the family is proof that the marriage is not quite successful. A wife does not have to choose between husband and child; she can love them to the fullest because she loves them in different ways, with two different emotional points of view. If a child assumes the role of a husband, then it is proof that she is not happy with her husband. The husband, therefore, has a reason to be jealous, but it is not the presence of the child that is to blame, but the unhealthy emotional relationship between the wife and the husband. That is why a jealous stepfather will achieve nothing if he turns on the child. Aggressive action will only worsen his position in the family. He can get rid of jealousy towards the stepchild only if he brings in more warmth.

But even a stepfather who got married with a completely healthy attitude towards a woman and her child may encounter difficulties in relation to the stepchild. They usually occur when a woman has wrongly raised and bonded with her child before the remarriage. Then the child becomes jealous of every person towards whom the mother shows greater sympathy. Understandably, it will also be aggressive towards the man to whom its mother now devotes a portion of her time, attention and tenderness. A spoiled child feels very endangered in its position in the family if it is not always the center of attention, if it is not the only one, if there is someone else who is dear to its family.

Towards the stepfather, the jealous child becomes defiant of both him and the mother, because it is convinced that she has left it emotionally. This manifests itself in various behavioral disorders, in insolence, lying, aggression or withdrawal, depression and grumpiness, in running away from home and failing at school, or in various neurotic reactions. It doesn’t matter if the mother has really neglected her child since she remarried, or if the child is just imagining it. Crucial to the onset of jealousy is the way the child subjectively experiences his or her environment, not what is really going on in it. And the more spoiled the child is, the less able it is to objectively judge the environment’s actions towards itself.

The child’s jealousy and behavioral disorders tempt the stepfather to lose patience and to treat the stepchild cruelly. Only emotional maturity and a strong love for the mother can help him maintain his mental balance despite the challenges with the stepchild and not becoming authoritative. This is where the woman needs to intervene. Her task is to make the young person more confident in themself by gradually abandoning cuddling and systematically making the child independent. Along with the child’s growing self-confidence, its jealousy will subside, because it will no longer need it. The reorientation of the educational process will also bring her a double benefit: she will have less trouble with the child, and the husband will be relieved of the emotional burden that could jeopardize their marriage.

The behavior of a 12-year-old boy is an example of the stepchild’s severe jealousy towards his stepfather, who then feels attacked and leaves the marriage in self-defense. The woman gave her illegitimate child back in infancy to some strangers and paid for it. The boy grew up without love, he saw his mother only a few days a year, so an insurmountable longing for his mother grew stronger in him. When the woman married, the husband agreed to take the boy with him. He welcomed him in a natural way, ready to accept him as his own child. But after a few days, the boy began to show signs of fierce jealousy. He tried to keep his mother completely occupied when she was at home, and he became wary of his stepfather. When his mother objected to his intrusion, he withdrew into himself, and became depressed. His resentment toward his stepfather grew more and more. The stepfather tried to appease him, but his attempts to reconcile with the boy were unsuccessful. At the same time, the boy began to suck up to his mother, begging her not to deal with her husband, not to caress him, not to sleep with him. When the mother refused the request, the boy became defiant and impudent towards her as well. This resulted in constant conflicts between the mother and stepfather with the boy, but also in increasingly difficult quarrels between the spouses. Seeing that his mother could not be kindly separated from his stepfather, he tried to do so by force. He did not want to sleep in the evening until the couple fell asleep, and all three slept in the same room. Or he would lie down at night between his mother and stepfather, to prevent them from having intercourse. When his stepfather began to beat him for this, the boy began to lag in school; then he stopped learning altogether. And his mother treated him in a completely neurotic way: once she caressed him, cried with him and swore that she loved him infinitely, another time she scolded him with harsh words and drove him away. Finding himself in a difficult emotional conflict, the boy decided on the extreme: when one night his stepfather was not at home, he tried to have intercourse with his mother. Upon learning of this, the stepfather left the wife, and she full of anger that she had lost her husband – she beat the boy so badly that he ran away from home and completely indulged in vagrancy and theft, until he ended up in a foster home.

A child’s jealousy of the mother’s new sexual partner can be prevented if the mother tries not to make the child too dependent on herself while alone with him. At the same time, it is necessary for the “new dad” to treat him in a fatherly way from the first day of living with the child. Let him take care of the child, let him play with him, let him bring him small gifts, let him be kind, cheerful and well-meaning with him. The mother must be careful not to neglect the child. It needs to be addressed to the same extent as before. In addition, let her occasionally allow the child to participate in her tenderness towards her partner and let her emphasize their mutual emotional connection as often as possible. It is important that the child does not feel excluded from its mother’s new emotional connection. It must experience that its mother did not stop loving it when she fell in love, and that the “new dad” loves and accepts it as a real father.