The most beautiful relations in the world are found within the basic unit of a family – husband-wife, parent-child and relationships among siblings play a significant role in our lives. Each relationship comes with its own set of responsibilities and liabilities that must be fulfilled and catered to in a unique and honest manner. Every relationship has its own demands and the relationship between stepparents and stepchildren is no different. It is important to understand that since you are raising someone else’s child as your own, you have a greater responsibility as a step parent. This is because you not only have be wary of your relationship with the child but also keep in mind your relationship with the child’s mother/father and also their biological ex-parent.
The relationship between a stepparent and a stepchild is definitely complicated and no matter how hard you try being the best parent to your stepchild, the fact that this is not your child (at least biologically) will always remain. So the best way to handle such a complicated and complex relationship is to understand your rights and duties as a stepparent and take that as a starting point in such an arrangement.
What am I allowed to do?
As hard as it may be, talk to your spouse about the kind of role they want you to play in their child’s life. When you are marrying someone who already has children with someone else, it becomes essential for you to sit and ask your spouse-to-be what are your limits when it comes to the child that will now reside with you. This not only makes it easy for you as a stepparent, but it also makes it easier on your marriage. In any situation, communication between spouses is key to unstrained relationships and once you have reached an agreement, make sure to stick by it.
What are my rights?
According to Islamic practices, a stepparent has all the right to not interfere with their spouse’s child and to keep a distance. It is not mandatory to care for the child or provide for him. However, it solely depends on your partner and you to reach an arrangement that you both see fit. Technically, the rights and duties of the biological parent trump any other relationship when it comes to responsibility and rights but it really depends on the kind of dynamics you have with your partner and what arrangement works best for you.
What capacity to act in?
Sometimes if the biological parent is absent or has passed away, then it is likely for you to take on the role of a nurturer and provider for the stepchild and there is no reason to not do so. It may even be encouraged according to a hadith, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:“The one who cares for an orphan and myself will be together in Paradise like this,” and he held his two fingers together to illustrate. (Bukhari 5659)
There is nothing wrong with treating your stepchild the way you would treat your own because on a human level our religion encourages us to be good towards each other and to help one another in any way possible.
There are no hard and fast rules as to what a stepparent is supposed to do or should do. All one can be expected to do is treat another well and hope that Allah will reward us for the good that we do and none of it will go unrecognized. May Allah grant us the power to do what is right (Amen).
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