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Parenting Stepchildren/overly affectionate step-son

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Question
About 8 months ago I married a man with 2 boys and I have 1 girl. His youngest son just turned 9. As a baby this child was very sick, he had a feeding tube and was constantly in the hospital. My husband and his ex-wife divorced almost 6 years ago and my husband is the primary custodian to his boys. With that said the above mentioned child is overly affectionate to me and sometimes my husband as well. By overly affectionate let me give you a few examples, during dinner it isnt uncommon for him to get up and come and kiss one of us. During a hour church service he kissed me 18 times and constantly saying I love you. these are only a few examples  It isn't that we don't want the affection its just extreme at times(most of the time). My question is do we address this or leave it alone?

Answer
Hi Brittney - I suspect your stepson was traumatized by his early hospital experiences (and family breakup, and he may have felt abandoned by his birthmother. If so, his need to be so affectionate can be an unconscious way of trying to guard against re-abandonment. If his behavior isn't significantly annoying, wait to see if it naturally abates as your stepfamily stabilizes and his security grows. Otherwise, I suggest you mates set some calm limits with him on how, when, and where to express his affection. An option is not to overly reinforce his behavior.

There may be other contributing motives - e.g. his relationships and dynamics with the other kids and with the biomother. Might he feel one of your kids is treated as a favorite by one or both of you adults?

For all your sakes, I encourage you coparents (including your exes) to learn about stepfamilies: http://sfhelp.org/sf/quiz7.htm  and http://sfhelp.org/sf/guide7.htm

If you study these and have questions, please ask! - Pete

Parenting Stepchildren

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Peter Gerlach, MSW

Expertise

I can answer questions about remarriage preparation, stepparenting, stepchild discipline, child visitation, grieving, stepfamily norms and myths, mission statements, stepparent job (role)descriptions, communication skills, loyalty and values conflicts, stepfamily identity problems, common pitfalls, ex mate and relative problems, stepfamily merger and adjustment tasks, name confusions, choosing an effective counselor, resolving money disputes, co-parenting support groups, and the family effects of court (legal) battles. I can`t answer questions about medicine, family law, legal stepchild adoption, or financial planning.

Experience

I have studied and worked with stepfamilies clinically since 1979, and I have been a "step everything" personally. I was invited to be on the board of the Stepfamily Association of America (SAA) by it's founders, Drs. John and Emily Visher; and later was re-invited by president Margory Engle, PhD. For more detail, see this.

Organizations
Former Board member, Stepfamily Association of America (SAA)
National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC)Experts Council

Publications
Hundreds of Web articles on sfhelp.org ; I've uploaded over 150 self-improvement videos on YouTube; and have self-published 6 books. My ad-free Web site offers a unique, practical 7-lesson self-improvement course.

Education/Credentials
Stanford University BSME (1958) George Williams College MSW (1981) Hundreds of post-graduate seminars on a wide variety of "mental health" subjects

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of appreciative emails and comments on my Web site and videos from people all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked clinically with over 1,000 midwestern divorced and remarried family members, and have had over 800 stepfamily students in various seminars and courses since 1981

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