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Anne Cawood


Posted by: Katrinkie | 2010-04-25


Unwilling Stepmom

I have been married for five years and my husband has a 9 year old daughter from a previous girlfriend. Whilst Husband and I were dating, right up until 6 months ago, stepdaughter had chronic mind-poisoning from the Bio-Mom, resulting in a very difficult time for both step-daughter and I to bond. Six months ago, thanks to a session with a therapist that involved Bio-Mom, Bio-Dad, Step-Daughter and myself, that has changed. Even though the bio-mom and my relationship is 1000 times better, I have to wonder what, if any residual effects it has had on Step-Daughter. I still find myself very withdrawn when she is around and do not really want to engage with her. I also feel that as I have absolutely no authority as far as the child is concerned, it therefore should naturally follow that I have no responsibilities or accountability for how the child turns out in later life. To go one step further, I also feel that she has a fully functional mother and a fully functional father, I do not want to be a third wheel in their circle. I do not want authority or responsibility. Their child, their problem. Am I way off base here?

Expert's Reply


Anne Cawood Anne Cawood
- 2011-05-19

Yes, sorry to say - you are way off base here!! It is very challenging to be a step-parent. I am glad to hear that you have managed to resolve at least some of your problems - this is a good start.However, it is very important to realise that you are in the parental role. You may not be the bio-mom- but you are "in loco parentis" for the time your step-daughter is with you and your husband. This means working hard on building a relationship with her - and this will need to come from you. You will never be her Mom- but you will need to define a role with her - as a very important adult in her life. This will then involve setting boundaries for while she is with you. Not harsh punishment -but firm and consistent rule-making, and then allowing the consequences of choices.She will learn that you and your husband are a family unit - with your own values and limits - and that her mother has her own ways of doing things, that are separate from the way you do things. She will very soon learn that she has 2 homes - each with specific ways of doing things. Children will only manipulate things when adults allow them to.In my book "Adjusting the Boundaries: Helping children and teens cope with separation and divorce" I deal with all these important issues.

Good luck!

The information provided does not constitute a professional diagnosis of your problem. You should consult a health care practitioner, lawyer or other appropriate professional for formal advice. Parent24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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