Stepchildren can be a difficult subject to discuss. So much hope and fear and potential for resentment, on the child’s side as well as yours. It can sometimes feel like you’re negotiating your way through a field that’s been loaded with landmines, and no map to refer to. Or maybe that’s just me. But I don't think it is. I think that is, in fact, simply the nature of navigating a step-parent relationship.

Speaking as a stepmom myself, I have to say I’ve actually been very lucky: My stepdaughter bonded well with me right from the beginning, and never questioned my place in our family. She has always considered me a secondary mother, which I believe is as much as any stepmother can hope for. That’s not to say that our relationship is without challenges. Now that she’s a teenager, it’s a whole new dynamic for us. But we’re good. In general, we've always been really good—which is not to say that our journey hasn't had its share of... doubts, fears, and major insecurities.

If you have found yourself in a relationship with a single parent, and are wondering how you move from being scared of their child to loving them, fear not. There is a process that you will likely go through, as your new stepchild finds his or her way into your heart. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always quick, but if your partner loves them, then you will too.

Initial Trepidation


Before you met your partner, it’s possible that someone having kids from a previous relationship was a dealbreaker. That was certainly true for me. So when I ended up with someone who did have a child from a past relationship, I started out nervous and worried that this was the wrong decision—should I have gotten into a relationship where kids were involved? After all, what if this kid is a total brat? Even worse, what if she doesn’t like me?

The First Meeting


OK, so the child in question isn’t a total brat. Phew. Actually, she’s quite lovely. She’s friendly and trusting and talkative… I actually found that I really enjoyed playing with this cutie-pie. She was still a little scary, because she was a kid I didn’t expect to come into my life. Even though I found myself having a surprisingly great experience with her in the beginning, I still wondered if I might be able to handle being in this little girl’s life in a long-term way. That’s so much different from just hanging out sometimes.

Proceeding With Caution


So, I knew I loved this person I was in a relationship with. And he came with a child. It’s not what I thought would happen, but I was willing to give this a go, and really try and bond with his child. I started participating more in a “family life,” and it felt really pretty good. I was still a little bit nervous about the impact I could potentially have on this little life, but so far, things were going well.

Your First "Date Night" Together


Maybe it’s a date afternoon, actually. Regardless, there came a time when my significant other asked me to look after his kid for a few hours, for some reason—alone. “This will be great!” I said, so that he didn’t think there are any issues. But holy shit, that was scary. It was the real deal. I was step-parenting, and actually, it was pretty great. I realized how much I liked this kid, and enjoyed hanging out with her.

The (Many) Awkward Moments


It’s not like I thought being a stepmom was going to be all rainbows and unicorns. As the two of us became more comfortable around each other, we had some very real moments together: moments of disappointment, moments of saying the wrong thing, moments of not knowing what to say at all. The awkward moments were bound to happen, as the two of us let our guards down, and truly started to trust each other. This is a flawed, challenging process in any new relationship. When it’s with a kid, even more so. But awkwardness doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

The Sudden Moment You Know


I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but for me falling in love with my stepdaughter kind of snuck up on me. I knew I cared for her deeply, but I didn’t know how much I loved her until we came to a moment of truth, when I realized I thought of her as my own, in many ways. And I found myself wishing I had been there for all the moments I had missed before we met.

Stepchildren can be such a wonderful addition to your life. They bring this incredibly wonderful element to your life that you didn’t even realize you needed or wanted, or could handle. When you do finally fall in love with each other, you’ll wonder what you ever did without them.

Images: Pixabay; Giphy(6)