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Anne Cawood

Question

Posted by: Katrinkie | 2010/04/25

Q.

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 I still find myself very withdrawn when she is around and do not really want to engage with her.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

A.

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!


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