When You Are Younger than Your Stepchild
This can be a bit uncomfortable for both you and your stepchildren. Although age is just a number, your thirty-five-year-old stepson may find it disconcerting that he has a twenty-four-year-old stepfather. Society usually dictates that you should respect your elders. Elders are usually our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and caretakers. When you are expected to respect someone younger because they hold a position you deem appropriate for someone older, it feels a bit uncomfortable. You may have gone to the doctor's recently, only to discover the doctor is young enough to be your child. Is this doctor credible? Probably. But do you feel a bit odd trusting your health to someone half your age? Probably. It is tough to accept that someone younger than you deserves your respect. This can be especially tough for a child whose stepparent is younger.
Your stepchild may feel that getting along with you is a way of being disloyal to her other biological parent. You may find she seems fine with you one on one, but in situations where everyone is present she has an attitude or doesn't speak to you. You can address it or ignore it, but try to enjoy the times the two of you do get along.
Your stepchild may have preconceived notions of who you are simply because of your age. The more comfortable you are with your age, however, the more comfortable your stepchild may be. If you do not make an issue of it your stepchild may not either. If he does make an issue of it, you may find you need to work harder than other partners or stepparents in order to prove yourself. This may not seem fair, but it shouldn't be a problem if you truly believe you are capable and worthy of being with your partner. You need to show how comfortable you are in your new role (even if you aren't totally comfortable). It can become a kind of fake-it-till-you-make-it situation. Your stepson may also feel abandoned by his parent, and feel that she has stopped taking care of him in order to take care of you. You can help this situation by encouraging your partner to continue caring for her child as she did prior to your arrival.
If your stepchild is very upset by the situation, you can discuss with him how you view your role as stepparent. You aren't going to be a typical parental figure; your stepson could potentially be your mentor. Explain that you are not looking to parent or discipline him or expecting respect as a parent. You can ask that your stepchild appreciate you as someone else who loves his mother and respect you as another human being.
Taking on the role of stepparent with the expectation of being respected as a parent is a very bad idea; it probably won't happen. If you can gain your stepchild's respect as a person, you have made plenty of headway. To best gain the respect of your older stepchild, conduct yourself with maturity, be open to his questions and concerns, laugh at the situation if it makes sense to do so, respect your stepchild and the knowledge he has, and prove your worth as your partner's significant other by loving her and cultivating your relationship with each other.
The Other Biological Parent
The other person in the mix who may disapprove of your relationship with your partner is the other biological parent. The stereotypes of young bimbos stealing husbands or hot pool boys causing affairs still run rampant in the media. The person who is left for the newer, younger version usually feels quite awful. Aging is not fun for many people, and being replaced by a younger version only drives home the fact that someone is aging. If you are the young replacement, you may be bright, self-sufficient, capable, kind, mature, well versed in the stock market, or even an entrepreneur. The only thing the other biological parent may see is your age, and how different it is from his. This is to be expected.
As mentioned earlier, aging is tough, and seeing someone younger with a former partner may make the other biological parent feel as though his face is being rubbed in the dirt. If you want to gain the respect and appreciation of the other biological parent (which often helps you gain the respect of your stepchild), do not flaunt your youth around him. There is no reason to tell him you weren't yet born when he graduated from high school or that you can still run a road race with little or no training. You don't need to be ashamed of your age — and you shouldn't be — but you also should not brag about it or show it off.