Using the 5 Love languages to connect with your step-children

The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman was written in 1995 and has become more popular among couples globally, selling over 13 million copies. The book sparked a new way of thinking about how we love and how we like to receive love. It clearly explained not only how to say “I love you” but also how we can hear it clearly by teaching people how to express love in their spouses language.

According to Dr. Chapman, there are five love languages: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. To read them in detail , get the book here.

In this post, I will be summarizing the five love languages and how understanding your stepchildren’s love language can help you start and form a long lasting connection with them.

Words of affirmation

Actions speak louder than words right? Well, while this is true, the words mean just as much as the actions. Positive affirmations are just as important for children’s emotional and mental well being as is their nutrition, sleep and exercise. What you put into your child is what you’re going to get out of your child. If they only hear negative comments about themselves or their parents, they will actually begin to display more and more of those negative traits. 

When they’re young, children derive their own identity from their parents. That is why they blame themselves when mom and dad divorce/separate. This is one of the biggest unfavorable situations that children can face in their lives. If they feel bad about the situation, it may cause them to become more negatively motivated will feelings of guilt, sadness, anger and frustration. Your words of affirmation give them the ability to focus on the positive things and overcoming the situation. It’s therefore important that you become their biggest fan.

Photo credit : Nicholas Githiri

As a biological parent it is important to always reassure them of your love despite the break up with their other parent. A good place for step parents to start is to spend quality time together with their stepchildren, taking a keen interest in their activities as this reveals what the child is doing well and presents you with an opportunity for you to tell them just how great they are doing for example, when they bring home good test scores, an act of kindness to others, their outfit, a great game on the football pitch, a great performance at the school play or helping around the house.

Quality Time

This is can be anything from a family vacation, Sunday afternoon lunches after church, dinners, watching movies, running errands like shopping together, going for a run or a bike ride, etc. with your step-children. These activities done together help the kids feel secure because their parents are close to them. They feel insecure when plans are cancelled or if they perceive that their parent would rather be alone or with others and not them.

Photo Credit : Agung Pandit Wiguna

As a stepparent you have to find the balance here. If you are just starting out, this may look like letting the kids spend quality time with their biological parents without you in the picture. Initially they perceive a step parent especially stepmoms as competition. As your relationship grows you will graduate to spending time with the kids with your partner to doing some activities with the kids alone.

Find fun age appropriate activities that you can do together. For example I used to play X-box games with my step children. I would have each pick a game they love and we’d play it together. Other activities can include making a special meal, puzzles, picnics, outdoor games. If they can teach you something new even better. Make sure that you give your full and undivided attention during this time.

Giving Gifts

This love language is the reason why we all love it when we get gifts from people we love especially on special occasions like our birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers day, Fathers day etc. The gift can be anything, what matters is that it is given from the heart. You don’t need to spend a lot—or even any money at all, when it comes to getting gifts. Make or give
thoughtful gifts specific to the child interests. For example, if the child is a reader you can buy them a book on their birthday, or have a project with their sibling to create some cool bookmarks for them.

Photo Credit : Pixabay

The golden rule to apply here is that if the gifts are not for a specific occasion like a birthday make sure you get a gift for all the kids, biological and step. That way there is no room for any of them to feel like some kids are being favored over others.

Physical Touch

Physical affection towards our children is highly promoted and encouraged, both for bonding and for the promotion of their development and well being.  Children need regular touch in order to thrive. Hugs, hand-holding, cuddling, kisses, high fives and even a warm smile mean everything to them. Withholding this from them can make them feel like they are being rejected.

Photo Credit: Nappy

Remember that this again goes back to how comfortable you and your stepchildren are. This will guide you as to what you can or cannot do. Let them guide you. If you are just starting out, you may suggest activities that require close physical proximity like a board game, reading a book, sharing a blanket as you watch TV these will help you as you work your way up to those hugs and kisses

Acts of Service

This is basically love in action. Actions that go above and beyond to help your step children feel your love towards them. Initially this is all you will have in your bag of tricks. They will be constantly watching you to find out what you’re about and they can pick up when you’re love is not genuine. Acts of service may include activities like driving the kids where they need to go without being visibly stressed about it or complaining, especially if their biological parents are unable to do it for whatever reason, helping them with their homework, picking out gifts for the biological parents etc Basically anything that they ask for your help with or that their parent requires help with.

The concept of the 5 love languages have the power to improve any relationship in your life. What is important is that you seek to understand yourself first, understand your loved ones and make a consistent effort on the choice you made to love them.

Why the biological mother of your stepchildren hates you

So you meet your prince charming and accept him and his kids knowing very well that they are a package deal. You cant have one without the other. You go ahead and get married, you take care of his children and try your best to be a positive influence in their lives. You work so hard to create a cohesive, functional family unit and yet it seems that it doesn’t matter what you do, your husbands ex, the biological mother of your stepchildren doesn’t like you at all. You would think that it would be better for everyone especially the children if you agreed and were on the same team but that is far from the reality, she hates you and you have no idea why. Technically you have checked every item on the “how to to be a smart stepmom” list,  if anything she should be thanking you and appreciating you for all that you do in her absence.

Truth is, she may never be upfront as to why she just cant stand you but here are some common reasons why moms do not like stepmoms, read on and see which ones fit your unique situation.

She did not choose you

“I never wanted you here. You simply were never part of the plan. Growing up and dreaming of my family I never included you.   I didn’t want help from another woman to raise my child.  The plan was for my family to include me, daddy and our children, not you. ” These were the words of Candice Curry, the founder of ‘Women with Worth’ in a blog-post titled “An Open Letter to my daughters stepmom” which went viral.

She echoes the words of many biological moms who find themselves in a similar situation. They never once thought that another woman would be raising their children and that they would have absolutely no say in that matter at all. You came into her territory and her guard just automatically went up.

She has little influence on her ex

Before you came along, your partner was less likely to muddy the waters with her. She probably got away with a whole lot more than she does now that you are in the picture. You see, now your husband listens to you, considers your point of view, has probably made several changes to accommodate you in the family and consults with you on all family matters. This used to be her, now that they are no longer an item, her power has decreased so it is not surprising that she blames you for this change.

You remind her of her failure

Whether she is the one who wanted the divorce or not, seeing you happy with her ex can be a bitter pill to swallow. No one ever gets into a marriage with the intention to get divorced and every divorced parent regrets the effects it has on their children. Perhaps your partner learnt his lesson and is now a better husband to you than he was to her. In any case, her perception of your relationship with her ex may anger her, whether she blatantly takes it out on you or not.

She is scared her children will love you

Ideally this should not be a threat because of the blood bond she has with her children. They will forever love and remain loyal to her despite whatever choices she makes in life, good or bad.  In her world however you are a threat and see you get along so well or hear warm stories about you from the kids may fuel her fire.

You are there for her children when she is not

This is especially so if you are a full-time stepmom with permanent custody and the biological mother is the one who does the visitation. You are there for every single milestone that her children make in her absence and that pisses her off. This is where you have to be wise as a stepmom and be very careful not to interfere with any firsts if you can help it because you give her the ammunition to hate you more.

She sees her weaknesses in you

You may be younger than she is, have a more successful career than she does, be more educated, prettier the list can be endless. Even if you are not, everyone has their own insecurities and its common for people to compare themselves unfairly to others and this situation is not different. She could be doing exactly that. Comparing herself to you and if this makes her feel inferior in any way is bound to take it out on you.

Whether all this is true or not, there should be no excuse for disrespect and animosity between moms and stepmoms. As adults we need to display maturity, address our insecurities head on, tackle valid issues amicably, respect each others contribution to the family and be the best we can be for the children’s sake.

If you are a stepmom who has to deal with an extremely difficult ex, you may not have much  control over her behavior toward you but you have control over how you react. Keep your head up and take the high road, always maintaining your self respect and dignity.