Needy stepchildren and how to keep things on an even keel without alienating your spouse

Dec 26, 2011, 6 a.m.

Nobody ever said blending a family would be an easy thing -- at least, nobody that's ever actually done it! When you married your spouse, you took not just a new person into nearly every facet of your life, but several new people in the form of your stepchildren. Even in the ideal scenario, when your stepkids absolutely adore you and the feeling is mutual, keeping everybody happy can be a bit tricky. When it's a less than ideal scenario, and you are dealing with stepkids who are very needy or clingy, you have a whole new set of challenges. Often, the biggest challenge you will face when you have needy stepchildren is not just keeping the kids happy -- the big challenge is keeping the whole family on an even keel, especially your spouse.

Of course, it might seem as if your spouse would be very understanding about the fact that the kids are very needy and that it might cause some occasional discord between the two of you. However, the fact is that when your spouse is looking at their own kids, they are often wearing a sort of blinders. Maybe they don't see how needy the kids are being, or maybe they are simply used to the children being that way, so this is nothing new.

This is a tricky subject to discuss with your spouse, but the bottom line is that keeping the lines of communication open is the number one move that you can make to keep your newly formed family intact, and dare you dream it ... happy! Ask your spouse to make some time, say once a week, to schedule a meeting for the whole family to sit down and talk about any problems or concerns. If you and your spouse make it clear to the kids that you are more than willing to listen and work together as a family, it can work wonders.

This family meeting time might also help to lower the number of day-in, day-out episodes of drama and needy behavior in the home. When the kids know they have your undivided attention, such as in the scheduled meetings, they will often tend to address the issues at those times, when they know they'll get the most attention and consideration.

The "Give a little" rule generally applies when it comes to needy stepkids, but keep in mind that bending over backwards and being too pliable to demands is counterproductive. If the stepchildren think they can get everything they want all the time from you, it might create additional demands and certainly won't do anything to help things stay on an even keel.

Just remember that the family unit is the focus here: Maybe you are not a traditional family, but you are a family regardless. When the stepchildren realize you are all in this together, neediness will lower, your relationship with your spouse will blossom, and your family unit will function the way it's meant to!

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