Stepparent Issues

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My boyfriend is 9 years older than me, he has 2 kids, a 9 year old daughter, and a 10 year old son. I have a 3 year old son also. We’ve been together for over a year now. He left his wife for me, and we’ve been going strong ever since, up until about 2 1/2 months ago. His ex up and skipped town, we got left with his 2 kids permantely. I’m 24, and all this is new to me, I went from being a mom with 3 years of experience to having a 3, 9, & 10 year old. His daughter talks to me any way she pleases, I punish her by sending her to her room, she’ll fight back with kicking, screaming, & moaning for literally hours, telling her dad she hates him for being with me, whereas most days she’s completely fine & loves me. His 10 year old son is mostly good, except he has jealous issues upon my 3 year old son. He is mean to him, takes toys, food, books, etc away from him just so he’ll cry. He has admitted that his problem with my son is that he has his mom in his life.

My boyfriend worked at the time when his kids were growing up, so all this is briefly new to him also. We have tried everything since their mom left, family vacation, movies, shopping, even re-did their rooms, nothing seems to be good enough. I’be tried talking with his daughter & she will get up & tell me she is fine.

Her grades are begining to slip, she lies about bathing, stopped doing household chores, & plain out doesn’t care. She is the most difficult time we.are having, its been causing us to argue, stress, & panic. I suggested she seen a counceler & she screamed at us we hated her & was trying to.put her in a girls home! I have no clue where she gets these things. I only want better for her. Some nights she’ll cry herself to sleep saying ” I want my moma.” What do we do?

A: The most important thing to remember in this situation is that your boyfriend’s kids are grieving. Their mom abandoned them. They lost her and the home they’ve known. From their point of view, they can’t trust you or their dad either. They think that since their own mother could leave them, so could you. These kids aren’t bad. They are in enormous emotional pain. Being kids, they don’t have a way to understand what has happened or to talk about it clearly. They act out instead.

Family vacations and movies, though wonderful family outings, are not going to balance out their feelings of anger and sadness. Then need support in dealing with their feelings. You and their father need support in learning how to support the kids. This isn’t easy stuff. But it is essential. You want to stabilize things before they get into adolescence, when kids normally push away from parental influence. You want to lay in trust and love and understanding now that you will be able to draw on later.

Your instinct that it would be a good idea to see a therapist was on target. But the whole family needs to go, including your 3-year-old, not just the daughter. You all need to have a place to talk about how difficult the situation is for all of you and to figure out how to live together and, hopefully, how to love and trust each other. A trained family therapist can help you with that project.

Please follow through. If you could have handled this on your own, you and your boyfriend would have fixed it already. I can tell you care about these kids and have compassion for them. Now you need some new skills.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 23 May 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). Stepparent Issues. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/05/23/im-not-prepared-to-be-a-stepmom/