My kids and their stepdad don’t get along

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have four daughters. Three from a previous marriage and one from my current marriage. My three oldest daughters seem to not get along with my current husband. My oldest is 16 and does have problems with authority, talking back and etc..He hardly ever talks to her. They have had heated moments in the past. One incident causing the police to be involved because she called my ex-husband. When this girl first meet him she seemed to really like him but through time their relationship has gotten worse. He seems to be closer to my 12 year old but she has been complaining about the way he acts. She says he sometimes has an attitude with her. My five year old is on the spectrum for Autism and tends to always want me to help her or be with her because of routine or obsessive compulsive behavior which I believe makes it hard for him to become close to her. She has also physically attacked him in the past leading him to spank her a couple of times which I have had issues with.Everything is fine between him and our youngest. I do feel he cares and loves them but he doesn’t seem to be putting much of an effort in trying to be a better parent. I know he’s trying to do the best with what he knows to do and there’s many layers to work with but I’m at my wits end. I feel that I’m the only parent most of the time.

A: Being a parent of teens is complicated. Being a stepfather of young girls who are turning into women is even more so. Of course he gets along best with your mutual child. She’s a baby. She’s his. She isn’t challenged by a special problem. There are fewer complications on all counts.

I think you and your husband could use some serious help, not because there is necessarily anything particularly wrong with you but because you are facing enormous challenges. The love that brought you together didn’t prepare you for the challenges of raising teenage girls, a special needs child, and a preschooler. As a mom of 4 myself, I also know what it is to be seriously outnumbered!

Please find yourselves a family therapist who also has some experience with autistic kids. You and your husband need some pointers for how to work as a team through the teen years. Your husband needs to learn some ways to support you and you need to learn some ways to include him. Your older kids need to be included in your autistic child’s treatment. You all need to be aware of how easy it would be to lose the youngest in the shuffle and take steps to prevent it. Meanwhile, you and your husband also need to find time to keep your own love alive. It’s complicated but, really, it can be done.

You and your husband married knowing that step-parenting isn’t easy. That’s not new information. But just how hard it can be is. Please do everyone a favor and get the help you need to do it well. The result will be a happier and healthier situation for you all.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 7 Mar 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). My kids and their stepdad don’t get along. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/03/07/my-kids-and-their-stepdad-dont-get-along/