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Daughter Won’t See New Family

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I divorced 5 years ago after an affair my oldest daughter found out about the affair and has since refused to be around the new husband/family. She is now 15 I have a 3-year-old who asks about her sister that she only sees in pictures. she says she loves her and wants to talk to her and see her. My stepdaughter (15) told my 3-year-old that she isn’t her sister. So I have a 3 part question. 1) How do I address my stepdaughter as not to say such things to my youngest (she also sometimes hides pictures and generally puts my eldest down. 2) What do I say to my 3-year-old about why she can’t see her? She doesn’t understand. 3) What do I say to the eldest daughter who refuses still to be around my new family? It has put a major strain on my new marriage as I have visits with her away from them and the home. Holidays are especially difficult as I still want to see my daughter but I have to leave my other family to do so.

Daughter Won’t See New Family

Answered by on -


Your step-daughter sounds like she is still feeling betrayed by you through your affair. In her world, you came into her family through devastation and left the same way. The family she had come to know after her biological mother was out of the picture included having to get used to you. Unfortunately, stepmother and stepdaughter relationships are often very fragile to begin with. When this then also came apart she is likely to have her lose trust and faith in you. This is often the case in these situations and your step-daughter’s reactions while difficult to cope with make sense.

From your description, it sounds like your stepdaughter doesn’t live with you and there are no visitation arrangements that have been made. It seems like her life is made elsewhere and her involvement with you has been minimal and agreed upon.

It also sounds like there were no efforts made at therapy between you and her after the marriage ended. Again, from your stepdaughter’s perspective you were the reminder that her mother was gone, and in you coming into the family was a constant reminder of that. Chances are she sees the affair as the cause of the end of the marriage and a reason not to trust you. Children in this situation often feel like the new family was chosen over them. Stepchildren may feel this pain even deeper. The result is that she is not likely to feel part of your life, not connected to your 3-year-old, and resentful.

If she would be willing, perhaps a meeting with you, your ex, her, and a family therapist might help. You can find qualified people in your area at the Find Help tab at the top of the page.

I wouldn’t worry much right now about what to say to your 3-year-old. Healing the relationship with your stepdaughter if it is possible must come first.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Daughter Won’t See New Family

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2020). Daughter Won’t See New Family. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 2 Feb 2020 (Originally: 4 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 2 Feb 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.