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SAA Article and Research Findings About Stepchildren

Stepchildren: A collection of SAA’s best articles and research findings

Stepchildren: A collection of SAA’s best articles and research findings

Just for Kids . . .

Cast of Characters ( a child’s perspective)
By Katherine Ayres


Real mom/Real dad - the parents that hatched me; if I act up with them, they love me anyway, ‘cause it’s in their contract

Wicked stepmother - the hag in the fairy tale who preferred her own ugly daughters and made Cinderella grovel on her knees; any woman who has the nerve to marry my dad

Stepfather - the man who lives in my house, often feeds and clothes me, but has no say whatever in what I want to do

Wicked stepfather - the stepfather (above) who tries to tell me what to do

Stepbrothers/Stepsisters - the kids they like the most; the kids who cause all the trouble around here

Half brothers/sisters - the kids that come along after my stepfamily is blended thoroughly; WARNING: they may be cute, but if I am a teenager, they are embarrassing; they are living proof that my mom/dad is still doing you-know-what

Grandparent - any one of a very large group of older adults who may or may not actually be related to me but who are related to somebody in my family; HINT: they send presents

Happily ever after - this is how romances end in fairy tales; if I’m lucky happily most of the time will happen in my stepfamily!

Katherine Ayres is a stepmother/author. She lives in Pittsburgh.

Four Suggestions To Help Stepchildren Deal With One Another

*Kids can work it out. In most cases, let your children work out their own problems. Kids who can resolve their own conflicts end up as better friends and learn about the rewards of understanding in the process. Violence or bully behavior should not be tolerated. Adults should help here.

*Affection can’t be forced. Brotherly and sisterly affection cannot be forced. Affection between stepsiblings should evolve at its own pace.

*Express those feelings. Help your children to express feelings both positive and negative. Point out how much better it is for them to let each other know how they are feeling about situations that affect them both. For example: "I feel angry when you borrow my clothes without asking," is better than "Will you stop taking my clothes, you’re making them a mess just like this room." Blaming invites a counter blame. If children can honestly say how they are feeling, there is greater opportunity for understanding, reconciliation, and change.

*Let wants and needs be known. Help your kids to understand how much more effective they are when they can be direct and honest about their wants and needs. Point out how keeping feelings a secret doesn’t make for change and won’t get them what they want. If you are a stepparent, and you see that your stepchild is angry with your kids, encourage this child to appropriately express that anger. Probably the child wants more attention from you.

Reprinted from Stepfamilies of Greater Cincinnati.

Stepchildren: A collection of SAA’s best artlces and research findings

Starting Over
By Patricia Wood

Stepfamilies Quarterly, Summer 1994

I curled up in the chair closest to the fireplace watching my dad trying to get the fire started. With Mary out of town, I knew it was now or never. "Dad, remember when you said if I ever wanted to go live with mom, I could?" I bite my nails in anticipation of his reply. He continued to poke the logs until the flames engulfed them. Pain shot through one of my fingers. My skin bled where the nail used to be. "Well, I decided I want to stay with Mom for a while," I said sucking the injured finger tip.

A few moments passed before he faced me. "Honey, are you sure you want this? It’s only been three months since Mary and I got married." My palms were sweaty. I thought the temperature in the room went up about 50 degrees. "Dad, please don’t give me a hard time about this." He rubbed his hands over his face. "I’m just a little confused about your sudden change of attitude. I was under the impression you didn’t like spending much time with your mother."

The room was quiet except for the sound of wood popping in the background. I sat still in the chair, playing with my fingers, not saying a word. "Okay, okay, but I need to talk to your mother first," he said.

Later that night Dad came to my room. "I spoke with your mother and she said her free time is limited. However, she agreed to let you stay with her for two months. At that time you can decide who you want to live with." "Great! When can I go?" By the look on his face, my sudden excitement acted like a knife twisting in his heart. "She’ll pick you up Sunday afternoon," he said flatly then left. For a moment I wondered if I made the right choice. Doubts started to fill my mind until I pushed them aside. During the week I tried to contain my feelings about staying with Mom. It’ll be so neat to go shopping with her. Every night before bed, we’ll drink a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating on the top and share secrets.

The night before I left, the atmosphere around the house was quiet. "Dad, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you, I just need some time with Mom right now." "Yeah, I know," he gave me a bear hug. "Besides, we’ll still see each other every other weekend," I said. Somehow his fake smile didn’t cover up the sadness that filled the room.

Sunday afternoon Mom picked me up. Everything went great the first week. We went shopping, to the movies, talked forever, and ate out all the time. Then she started to work late. Karen, the girl next door, stayed with me until Mom came home.

The weeks went by and Mom worked longer hours. Friday night became her late night so Karen and I watched movies and slurped root beer floats. Tonight was no different. "Not how you thought it would be, is it?" Karen looked at me over the opened ice cream carton. "Not really, I thought I would get to see her more. She’s always tired and grouchy and never wants to do anything." I stabbed each blob of ice cream Karen put in my glass with my spoon. "I feel trapped at both places. I thought it would be different with Mom, but it’s worse."

Karen poured the root beer over the ice cream. We watched it foam up and overflow. I dove for the straw, put one inside the glass and started sucking. It was too late, the brown frothy goo was all over the table top. "What I can’t figure out is why you want to live with your mom?" Karen asked. "I don’t know. I thought we’d do a lot more stuff together." The additional root beer being poured into my glass quickly came to the top. "You can do stuff with your step-mom and she’s home most of the time." "But it’s different with Mary," I said digging out another scoop of ice cream. "What do you mean?" Karen looked puzzled.

"She’s trying to be my mom. I feel funny because I really like her but I’m afraid to get close to her. I feel like I’m deceiving my mom by liking her." "What gave you that idea?" Karen asked pouring more root beer in her glass. "We have fun together and you know how much I love to go shopping. Well, Mom wanted me only to go clothes shopping with her. That’s like our one special thing to do together. Not only that, I can talk more easily to Mom. I mean that’s the way it’s supposed to be." "Who said?" "Me," I glanced at her then concentrated on my ice cream. I tried to mix the ice cream up with my straw but it kept bending. Then I continued, "I figure mom will always love me cause she’s the one that had me. It doesn’t matter what I do or say, even when she’s mad, she still loves me. Mary doesn’t have to love me." "Think about it, your mom doesn’t have time for you. If she did, we wouldn’t be having this conversation." Karen leaned on the counter watching me.

"I don’t want to hurt Mom. It would crush her if she thought I went shopping with Mary or talked to her about special things going on in my life." I said playing with my straw. "You also can’t put your life on hold waiting for your mom to go shopping with you. And why can’t you share special times with both of them?" "You just don’t understand." I sucked the float up through the straw and watched the brown foam sink lower and lower. Mom always was pretty busy. Even when my parents were married, she didn’t spend much time with me. "Mary’s more like a mom than my own mom," I mumbled under my breath. I pushed my glass away and went into the living room, curled up on the couch, and started to cry. Karen came in and put her arm around me. She held me until I fell asleep.

The next morning I made a decision. One that I had always wanted but was afraid to admit. I waited impatiently for my dad to answer the phone. My heart raced. "Hello?" "Hi Dad. I was wondering, can I come home?" The long silence on the other end worried me. Would he say no? "You have another two weeks before you make a decision," he said slowly. "I know, but I want to come home, now." "What about Mary?" "I miss her. I miss both of you," I said urgently. Please don’t make me wait two more weeks. "What does your mom say about this?" Dad asked. "She doesn’t know yet, I wanted to know if I can come home before I ask her." "Talk to your mom then have her call me," Dad said. We talked a few more minutes then hung up.

That afternoon Dad came to pick me up. I looked at Mom impatiently waiting to go back to work, then ran out the door and jumped in my dad’s arms. On the way home he asked, "What changed your mind?" "Mom was never home." "I’m not home much either." "I know but when you are, you treat me like I exist. I thought I’d be able to do lots of stuff with Mom, but it’s the same old thing, we have fun for a couple days, then I get ignored." I looked out the window.

"You know your mom loves you very much," Dad said. "Yeah, she’s supposed to." My dad gave me a funny look like he didn’t understand. I wrung my hands in my lap. "I guess I wanted Mom to be more like Mary," I said. Dad seemed surprised. "Mary likes you a lot you know. We’ve both missed you," he said. "I’ve missed you guys too. I guess I had to find out for myself that it was okay to get close to Mary." "Did you talk to your mother about that?" "We talked some right before you picked me up. Mom said our special time can be anything we do. I don’t think she liked the idea, but that’s okay."

The further we got from Mom’s house, the more I felt the cinder blocks falling off my shoulders. "I’ll tell you what, let’s get a pizza to celebrate and you can make us root beer floats for dessert," Dad said. "Yeah!" Dad held my hand as he drove down the street. "Hey Dad, does Mary like hot chocolate with marshmallows on top?"

Patricia Wood has experience as both a stepdaughter and stepmother. She has written from a girl’s perspective with a woman’s wisdom. Ms. Wood makes her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

These materials were provided to Flying Solo® by Stepfamily Association of American, Inc. To find out more about SSA Membership, articles, and products, you can contact SSA in the following ways:

By e-mail --
By telephone – (402) 477-STEP (7837)
By facsimile – (402) 477-8317

By mail –
Stepfamily Association of America
215 Centennial Mall South,
Suite 212
Lincoln, Nebraska 68508

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