Regarding your question about your particular responsibility about your husband’s kids, here’s how that lays out:
1) the stepparent is not legally or morally or physically responsible for their stepchildren. If a child gets into some sort of liable trouble (causing expensive damages to someone else’s property, for example), the biological parent is legally responsible for reparations for that damage. Not the stepparent. Morally, God places responsibility for raising a child and teaching that child how to be an adult on the biological parent. Not the stepparent.
2) The stepparent has the opportunity to bless the stepchildren; to teach them by example how to be a kind, loving, forgiving person. The stepparent also has the opportunity to demonstrate to the stepchild how to react, in a Christian manner, if they are insulted, ignored, or even harmed by the stepchild. The stepparent does have the responsibility to show the stepchild Christ in a very real way through daily living and lovingkindness (just as any child or person). Yes, this can be hard. I remember when my own stepdaughter slapped me in the face in public, (once physically and many times with her mouth and hateful attitude) in front of others, to embarrass me and to challenge me. As a Christian who just happened to be married to her mother, my responsibility was to demonstrate to her how a Christian would deal with a personal attack like that. (Remember what Jesus said about if someone slaps you on one cheek? Forgive and get over it and love them, He said)
So the stepparent, you and I, has no legal responsibility over the stepchild – but the Christian has a responsibility to witness Christ’s love and forgiveness to everyone, ESPECIALLY those in our household.
One more point; Just because a stepparent does not have the responsibility for their stepchild, they are family. And, as family, they have a relationship with those stepchildren. You and I, as family members to our stepchildren must be careful not to shun those children, but to reach out to them as family members. When Dad and the kids are doing something, a family member should show an interest and care about that they’re doing. If the stepkids reject your attempt, that shouldn’t make any difference in your actions. We are still family members with those children of our spouse, and as such we need to show the same care and consideration as we do toward our spouse’s parents, brothers and sisters, or their grandparents. Reach out with patience and love and respect because of who they are related to … your sweetheart.
It is a balancing act: love without having to, care without being forced to. But so is every other relationship we have – with our spouse, our parents, our siblings, etc, etc. It may not be the easiest, but it’s the right thing to do.
STEPcoach Bob Collins
Helping stepfamilies succeed since 1996 – STEP-Carefully! is just for you!