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Evil Stepmom

 

Please contact Evil Stepmom at ESM@evilstepmom.org with your questions or ideas about stepfamily living with 17-30 year olds.

 



Dear Evil Stepmom
Put Family Before Friendship with Young Adult Stepchildren

Dear Evil Stepmom,

My husband and I have been together for about four years now, and married less than a year. Greg, my 28-year-old stepson, just got married a few months ago. Greg and I get along really well, and I'm quite fond of his new wife. My husband and I socialize with them a good bit when they're in town, and visit them every moth or so.

My worry is about becoming a pain to them--Greg has to keep in touch with his mom, his dad, and now new in-laws and me, too! I really like them and want to befriend them, but I worry that Greg is too nice to tell me if I'm being a burden. When you really like your stepchildren, how do you know when you're overdoing it? 

Signed, 

Cautious Stepmom

Dear Cautious,

How wonderful to hear about a happy relationship between a stepparent and young adult stepchild. Yours is an excellent question, because hopefully at some point we'll all be able to worry about managing our positive feelings toward our stepchildren! 

If Greg likes you and you like him, you two will navigate a comfortable level of contact. The same goes for his wife. I don't know a young adult who doesn't appreciate a hand-written card or letter in the mailbox, an email, or a short "thinking-of-you" voicemail. That said, you've got far bigger responsibilities than friendship to think about as your stepson launches his new marriage.

Your first job as a stepmother-in-law is to support each of these young people in ways that help them keep calm and feel competent. Maintaining positive individual contact with each of them is the single best way you can do that. So keep up the good one-to-one work you’re already doing with both of these young people. 

Your second job is to protect and defend the space the new couple needs to work on their bond. By not placing any heavy expectations on the couple, you can show your respect for the privacy and autonomy of the new couple. They will need to separate from the rest of the pack for a bit in order to join as a couple. They may not make it for a visit on Father's Day or Thanksgiving, they may not want to vacation with you, or they may just want to be left alone for a while. Newlyweds don't need parents and stepparents pressuring them for closeness. So defend their privacy and give them a little extra space. 

Finally, don’t forget that there may still be some parenting challenges out there with one or both of these young people. Becoming “friends” at this point might make it difficult for you and you husband to take a hard leadership stand somewhere down the road if need be. So put family before friendship for now, and allow the relationships to develop and mature over time. 

You have decades ahead with these two young people ~ take time to enjoy them. 

Sincerely,

ESM
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