How many times have you heard of cruel step-parents or unruly step-children? If anything, these stories and anecdotes serve to illustrate how difficult it is for children to bond with their step-parents. Are you caught up in a similar situation? Mwereti Kanjo gathers some information on coping.
Barely a year after her mother died, MargaretÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s father sat her and her three brothers down to tell them he was remarrying. Their protest that it was too soon fell on deaf ears. Even worse was the fact that when the woman finally came home, the children confirmed it was the same person their late mother had suspected was having an affair with their father.
Margaret was only 14 at the time and she says she needed a mother figure more than ever. But getting close to this woman felt like betrayal to her late mother and the step-mother never seemed to put in any effort in getting closer to the children.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It was not easy for me and my brothers. We never accepted her and my father never really seemed to care what sort of relationship we had. When people asked whether my mother was home, we were quick to say that our mother had died but if they meant our fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife, she was home. Years went by without never really saying much to each other. It was like we both lived in separate worlds with our father,Ã¢â‚¬Â Margaret reveals.
After 12 years, MargaretÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s father died, and without a second thought, his children and relatives chased out their step-mother. They felt it was better that the children look after each other than entrust them to a woman they lived with for 12 years but was more a stranger than the person next door.
This situation might be different from othersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but the fact remains that it is not easy for step-parents to bond with children. There are a lot of issues involved such as feelings of betrayal, fear from both parties and not knowing how to go about it, among other things.
What to do
University of Malawi, Chancellor College sociologist Pierson Ntata says the answer to bonding lies with the step-parents because they are older, more mature and responsible. He says the key is that the parent spends time with the children.
But in doing so, the parent must also listen and pay attention to the feelings of the children. In this way, the children will feel that the parent cares and does not mean them any harm.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The parent must bring themselves close to the children. They should know their dreams, fears and needs. The parent must push and work on knowing the child. They should not expect that it will be easy. There is need for effort.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The parent must approach the child and talk about real issues. They should not be afraid to be open with the child, tell them that this is the reality we have and this is what we can do to work things out. It is the fear about bringing out the most personal issues between the two that grows their distance,Ã¢â‚¬Â advises Ntata.
He says it is very important for both parties to accept their situation and make the most of it.