As Valentine’s Day approaches, it’s time to reflect on all things love! As a stepmom (or bonus mom), being a new addition to your stepchild’s life can bring on some insecurities. Do they love me? Am I as special to them as they are to me? Are they happy to have me in their lives?

I’ve always told the kids that it is more important to show love than to say “love”. I try my best to show our children in small ways every single day how much they mean to me and how grateful I am to have them in my life. My stepdaughter tells me she loves me often but, more importantly, I’ve also started to pay attention to how much she shows me.

Here are 10 of the small ways she lets me know I’m loved:

  • She compliments my cooking.There is no one in the family who gets more excited about my cooking. She has a particular knack for complimenting my food even when it didn’t turn out  as expected. She tells me my scrambled eggs are as good as Gordon Ramsay’s and that my baked chicken dish is “Master Chef” worthy. They’re not.  I love that she tells me that anyway.
  • She does her chores. Yes, I know, all kids should. But she has it tough since she was thrown into the frenzy of a home with three other kids while being an only child at her mom’s. She could complain when she gets to our house and sees the extensive chore chart giving her  “dish duty” (the kids’ least favorite) but she doesn’t. She does chores because I ask her to. And because she loves being a part of our blended family, chores and all.
  • She craves alone time with me. She loves when we get a chance to hang out and do something special together. Whether it’s visiting a donut shop or seeing a show or just taking a long walk. Spending individual time with each of the kids is very important to me and I love that she loves when it’s her turn for one on one time.
  • She doesn’t like referring to me as “step”. In fact, she avoids it all together if she can help it. It’s been tricky to navigate since she hasn’t wanted to be disrespectful to her bio mom. She’s run through an extensive list of nicknames but I think her favorite this week is “S’Mama”.
  • She confides in me. She likes talking through her feelings about things, no matter how difficult the topic. When you feel stuck between your bio parents’ differing opinions, it’s nice to have a safe person to talk to. I’m glad she can trust me with her feelings.
  • She fights to sit next to me on the couch. The girls take turns being on either side of me when we watch TV together on family nights.  With three of them, there’s always bickering about who gets to sit by me and who will be left out. She’s ready to row just as much as the other girls when it’s time to claim one of the two coveted spots.
  • She asks me to attend her special events. I’ll never forget the day she asked me to attend a special school presentation. I had tickets to a show with a friend and told her I was sorry that I couldn’t attend. I tried to placate her by telling her that both her mom and dad would be there for her. To which she replied, “But you’re important too. I want you there too.” Yeah, I cancelled my plans.
  • She loves when I do her hair. Whether it’s a new braid she wants to try or the new wand tool or a bun, she loves the “girl” time we spend together while styling her hair. I love it, too.
  • She seeks my fashion advice. She asks me what I think of the outfits she puts together. We love chatting in her walk in closet about which pieces coordinate with which pieces of jewelry and with which hairstyles. I love that my opinion matters to her.
  • She tells me- often. Whether it’s along with a hug in the morning before school, or a “goodnight” before bed, or whether via text when she’s away from the house (or even while in our house), she tells me. She writes me special notes and cards about what I mean to her. I save every one of them with gratitude for the special relationship we have.

As moms and stepmoms, we don’t need Valentine’s Day to come around to feel loved by our children with cards and gifts and big proclamations. We can feel loved every day if we just pay attention and stop taking the small ways they show us for granted.

For stepmoms who struggle to find their place in stepmomhood, who have challenging relationships with their bonus kids or wonder if they will ever feel loved by them- Keep loving. Stay a steady, patient and positive force. Stop to notice the small steps, the tiniest of gestures. Appreciate those along the way to a healthy, loving, and trusting relationship with your bonus child.

What are some of the ways your stepchild shows you love? I’d love to hear!