Hostility seems to be the most common characterization of the child/stepparent relationship. The description is stereotypical, and very unfortunate. However, when you combine a child who is not too thrilled about having an extra parent, with a stepparent who may feel threatened with all the unique challenges now facing him or her, it is more common than not that some sparks will fly.
Children struggle with accepting a new family. They often view their stepparent as the "enemy." Most children have an insatiable desire for their parents to be together again. This is natural and understandable. In a child's mind, divorce, or even death, does not necessarily mean "the end." Hope can carry them beyond reality to a place where the impossible just might become possible. This hope in their hearts wrestles with accepting anything that would keep their parents apart. To accept a stepfamily, and perhaps even like the stepparent, would mean the death of their hopes and dreams. The stepparent becomes the best possible target of blame for the child's unhappiness.
Being a stepparent is not easy, either. It can, however, be very rewarding. Stepparents have quite an interesting set of challenges. Parenting children who don't want you in their lives can be rather difficult. Be assured that they will test you, and probably in ways you have never dreamed. But honestly, can you blame them? They are hurting and confused and don't have a mature understanding of what to do with those emotions. While we may not welcome these challenges with open arms, we would be wise to welcome this opportunity set before us to grow in Christ's character. Extend Christ's love and compassion to your new children. Show them unconditional acceptance. Forgive them. Stretch yourself...and grow.
The potential is great for stepfamily relationships to become healthy and strong. Successfully thriving in a stepfamily is possible. Hebrews 12:1 says, "...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." The race before both the child and the stepparent is not a hundred-yard dash. It is a marathon, and as in any race, it is accompanied by pain. Just as there are pulled leg muscles in a physical race, there are pulled heart muscles in our unique race. Stripping off those things that slow us down is required if we are to finish and win. The Lord will grant us the grace to move through the pain with love, acceptance, and forgiveness if we allow Him. We must guard our hearts and keep running. A personal transformation that untangles our sinful tendencies, and transcends our pain by the supernatural love of the Lord, will benefit and bless our entire family.