Blended families are becoming more common than ever before, and many stepdads are doing as much (or more) for their stepchildren as their biological dads do ... But not all stepparents bond with their stepchildren right away.
The Step Family Center stresses that the bond between a man (or woman) and their new spouse's children can take a while to form, and it's important to give the new family relationships time to develop.
So how do you know if your new husband truly loves the children you brought into the marriage? The best way is to ask him, but if you're not sure you want to hear the answer, you can also watch out for these subtle signs:
1. He deals with the difficult and frustrating stuff as well as the fun stuff
Anyone can go to the park, eat ice cream and take cute pictures of laughing kids. But what does he do when they have a tantrum, throw up all over the floor or when laughter turns to tears?
It's hard to clean up vomit and to listen to screaming when it's your own child, so when you do it for someone else's (without even thinking about it) it's a very positive sign.
2. He frets and worries over them with you
A supportive partner will always be there for you when you're fretting over your kids, but at some point you may notice your man's role changes. Instead of being a sympathetic bystander or shoulder to cry on, he'll be actively sharing your concerns about your children. A good husband supports his wife. A good father worries about his kids.
This shift can be disconcerting. On the one hand, you feel less alone. On the other, your husband has gone from being reassuring and calm, to worrying right alongside you.
Sometimes kids are a worry. Sometimes all we can do as parents is weather a storm together. If your man is really sharing your concerns about your children, that's a sign he truly loves those kids.
3. He supports a healthy relationship with their biological dad
When you love someone, you want what's best for them. Your kids' relationship with their biological dad may be close, fraught or non-existent, but you know your man loves them when he puts his own feelings about your ex aside. He supports your kids in having a healthy relationship with their biological father - whatever that may look like.
4. He cares about their long-term futures
As the "new" or "substitute" father figure in your kids' lives, it's easy to make decisions that will make life easier or make you popular.
Though it sounds odd, the first sign he really loves your kids might be him hassling your grade-schooler to get his homework done or telling your teenager she can't go to the all-night party. He's gone from trying to be the cool stepdad to being someone who is thinking about their futures and helping them make good choices.
5. He treats them like his own
Every parent is different, so how your new husband treats your children doesn't have to be exactly the same as how you treat them. If he has biological children of his own though, he'll hopefully get to the stage where he treats your children the same way he treats his own children. Whether that's firm-but-fair, or over-the-top affectionate doesn't really matter. We all show love in our own ways.
Did you have a moment when you suddenly knew your new husband truly loved your kids? Share it with us in the comments.