Behavior Matters by Tera EsterIt can be a challenge building connections between a stepparent and child who lost their other parent to death. Whether the stepchild is an adult or child, nonetheless it is a huge transition for all involved. Building connections between a stepparent and a child, in such a situation, can be successful or disastrous depending on the approach with that child.

Regardless of how much time has passed since the death of a parent and the remarriage of their other parent to someone else, it can still be tough. On one hand a child may be happy for their parent that they found someone else who makes their living parent happy. On the other hand, that stepparent still isn’t their biological parent, yet will be the spouse of their parent, which almost causes a feeling of guilt for that child. Other children may be resentful and angry that their parent would even consider dating again or even more so, remarrying. Such situations can be extremely difficult for all parties involved. However, as always, our focus is the child and how to best help the child with successfully coping with such a drastic change in their life.

It is important that a child’s parent and stepparent express to them that they can talk about their deceased parent anytime. Stepparents, who respect and honor the departed parent, show the child that they are not trying to replace their lost parent but rather want to have a supportive and loving adult role in their life. When stepparents approach the connection and relationship as such, it helps the child to accept the stepparent without feeling guilty.

Although the loss of my amazing Mother was devastating at 20 years old, I feel blessed the way that she handled her demise. Before my mother died at 47 years old and after a 5 year battle with breast cancer, I will never forget what she told me a couple of months before she passed. After returning home from my freshman year of college, my parents sat my brother and I down to tell us that the radiation and chemotherapy were no longer effective in treating my Mom’s cancer. My Mom told us that she had chosen to forego any further medical treatment of the cancer and that she wanted to enjoy her remaining days with us. Within the same conversation, my Mom asked my brother and I to accept the possibility of my Dad remarrying another woman one day. She said that my Dad was too young to live the rest of his life alone and that he deserved to be loved by another woman one day and remarry. As expected, it was a very emotional and a lot for my brother and I to absorb. We were forced to consider the fact that my Mom was dying sooner than later; that my father may remarry one day and that our Mother sincerely blessed the potential union. I will never forget that day.

I will also never forget the day that Donna, my now-stepmother, took to me lunch to say that although she and my Dad were marrying, of which I already knew of course, that she would never replace or try to replace my mother. She honored and respected my mother from the start. During that lunch, she reflected on stories that my Dad had told her about my Mom. She portrayed my Mom as being such an incredible mother to my brother and I, and such an incredible wife to my Dad. She spoke with the utmost respect of my Mom, and still does, and honored her for all that she was, and still is, to us. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed that my Dad remarried a woman who emulates the same selfless and loving characteristics that my own Mother did.

When a stepparent approaches such a situation, as my own stepmother did, it builds connections between the stepparent and stepchild that ultimately shape a strong and positive foundation for the future of that connection.