21 answers

Seeking Advice on Teen Step-daughter Issues

Hey Mamasource mamas,

So here is the nitey gritey. I have a 15 yo step-daughter who lives with her mother. I have known her since she was 6yo. We have had our ups and downs throughout the years. Things between us have gotten a lot worse since I had to rat her out to her mom last year. Her father(my husband) was serving a term in Iraq and I decided to be the bigger person and take ALL the kids to see the in-laws in florida. While there I found out she was on myspace saying she was 18yo and wanting to meet "hot boys". So I had to tell her mom. Her mother and I really don't talk because we really have not had good encounters in the past, but believed me and thanked me for letting her know. After that happened last year she has become more unruley. Examples: Told my husband she hated me and the kids(her half-sisters),accused me of having an affair while my husband was in Iraq and caring someone elses child(by the way the baby looks exactly like my husband), got caught sneaking boys in the house after school, taking pics of herself in her bra and sending it to boys, lying to everyone, and last but not least has been telling everyone to basically mind there own business because her life is her own and NO ONE can tell her what to do.

QUESTION: How far can a "step-mom" go in helping in this situation?

I have advised my husband to take her to counseling but he gives me the run around. I have been told in the past by both parents to mind my own business because she isn't my daughter. I am really afraid that she is going down the sexually irresponsible route and will end up pregnant or worse with AIDS. I truely care about this kid and am sooo concerned and sad for my husband who seems so lost.


1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

So Thanks to all of you for your responses!! I decided to lay-off a bit. And everything seemed to fall into place. I encouraged my husband to spend more time with her which brought all of us closer. She is starting to realize I have her best interest at heart. We are working through our differences. She actually is contemplating moving in with us but I told her she should think about that long and hard since it is a "my house my rules" household! She is still debating...teenagers!! Thanks again!!

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Sorry I disagree with the people who say that her parents have to be the ones that do something. I think that as step-parents we take on an obligation when we marry the parent to the child. I dont know her relationship with her mom but in one of my step daughters cases her mom was trying to be the friend. A friend so much that she let my step son come live with us. My other step daughter who is from a previous relationship and not by my husband til this day still calls and talks to me. She even thanks me for not giving up on her when everybody else seem to and let her do whatever. I know sometimes it can take an emotional toll.Try to call teh school where the child goes without the parents knowing and explain teh sitution. See if a concelar can talk to her and possible the mom. Dont give up on this child because even though it may not seem like it now in the end this child will thank you for not givining up on her. If you feel the need to vent just email me ____@____.com

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This is going to sound harsh, but believe me, I'm not judging...just trying to help.

The grown ups in this scenario need to see things from this girl's point of view. Dad and Mom split up, Dad leaves and starts a new family with someone else, then Dad goes off to Iraq and may never come back (at least that's true from her perspective, even if he wasn't in real danger, which is never the case in a war). Wow, let's just put a stake in her heart!

Is it any wonder this girl is looking for some adult male attention and affection? Who wouldn't be?

I think your husband and his ex need to put aside their differences, no matter how big, and concentrate on this girl. It should start with a great big "we're sorry". We're sorry we trashed your life. We're sorry we all acted selfishly, getting what we wanted and ignoring what was best for you. We're sorry we put ourselves first, when you should have been put first. We're sorry we expected what makes us happy to make you happy. We screwed up. We made a mess of your life and you have every right to be angry and to hate what we've done to you.

Your husband should be devoting tons of time to this kid, even if it takes time away from the others. She didn't ask for that family, but she's expected to be just thrilled about it nonetheless. Is she expected to look after the new kids, like she's a built in babysitter? Imagine if you were 15 and you were being told that you had this new responsibility that you didn't want, didn't ask for and didn't have any part in creating. Wouldn't you be angry and resentful? Dad's new family is now your responsibility while Dad and his new wife go out and have fun. I think I'd be a little peeved too.

I think you should sit down with her and apologize too. Tell her that you too acted selfishly, getting what you wanted at her expense (I know it's hard to see it this way, but it's true--this kid lost her family and you gained yours...and it was at her expense.) She was Daddy's only girl, and now she has to share him. That hurts. She's looking for a way to fill that void.

Tell her that you can't and won't be a parent to her. She has two parents and doesn't want or need a third. Tell her that you can be a confidante and a friend and that you hope that the two of you can build something new and good out of this mess. Earn her trust keeping her confidences--don't share them with your husband. Let her know that you want to trust her and then give her chances to earn your trust.

Make and allow time for your husband to be with her alone. She needs her father's attention solely focused on her. It's going to mean less time with you and your children, but he owes this kid a huge debt. Let him pay it.

Lastly, don't blame her for being normal. Everything she's doing is absolutely normal behavior for a kid who's had her world turned upside down. This kid's heart was broken! Dad's off with his new family, or worse, in Iraq. Mom's probably either trashing Dad all the time or off socializing or both. She's alone and hurting and scared and angry and she has every right to be all of those things. She doesn't need to be fixed. She needs to have the attention she has every right to and isn't getting.

I know that this sounds brutal, but it's meant to be helpful. You seem to be genuinely concerned about her and that's a big plus, but you also have to look inward and accept responsibility for your part in the mess and also see things from her point of view. She deserved better than she got.

1 mom found this helpful

Good Morning V., You might not like my answer but here goes. My husband has two children from a previous marriage. When I first met him both children resided with the mother. His daughter (9 years old at the time) wanted to reside with her father but he told her no as he was trying to get himself together. She cut off her hair and was disciplined by her mother. She promptly reported her mother to DCFS and hence now lives with her father. Unfortunately, over the last 8 years, my life has been a wholly hell. She has stabbed up walls, shoplifted, lied, stolen, etc. Unfortunately, both her parents tend to have small memories and believe that her actions are "normal teenage stuff" I had to leave her alone after so long as the lying on you, etc will not end. It is hard when you have to separate yourself from a child as this causes a lot of hardship to your family especially to your spouse. But, you are here and he is there and nothing will ever separate a father from his little girl as this is how he will continue to see her and want to protect her. I had to separate myself and this person no longer exist in my household. I moved on to doing things for me and no longer take care of her as she doesn't exist. This is what worked for me and might seem cruel, but I now have until summer 2009 before she leaves for school and I can have my home back. P.S. We tried counseling, but I watched the two of them not be very truthful and it ended before any attempts were made as he believes it is everyone else especially her mother but her. She also had a myspace account and when I reported this to her father his first response was indifference until I pointed out that college recruiters viewed accounts before accepting. He made her get rid of it but the next day she opened another one and this time put it to "private" so no one (only those with permission can view).


I have read some of the below posts, not all of them. Many of them are fixated on how the parents need to change. But for you, you have already realized this. I have a 15 year old step son that I have to say I am so lucky to have. He is a great kid. With that being said as the step mom I would handle things differently than his mom and dad. I am the only person in this family that comes from a divorced family so I can relate to my step son on some thinge but not all because each situation is diferent.

You will never be her mom but you will always be a role model that is seperate for her. This can be frustrating to you. I have tried on my end to have a better schedule and a better set of rules. I can only do so much and the stress it can put on you and your husband is a lot. We can all tell you to shape them up but its your reality that they are what they are. This does not mean you have to accept it. I also don't agree with going to get contraception for her. You would be crossing the line and causing more of an issue with her mom. Have the three of you come together to talk? What about talking to someone at her high school that would be outside of the three of you and that they would call the three of you in to get the two parents together and you? someone that would not say thatyou requested this but would care about your step daughter enough to call them in on the pretense of her school behavior? My step son has added me to his facebook page. He's not a nerd and a typical boy but at the same time I can see what he's up to. Can you get into her facebook page? Maybe figure out the people she is talking to? Is she interested in any sports? horses? anything that could deviate her from the road she is going down? Do the two of you have any interests that you share?
We will never be there parents we could never take that role. But, we can be people that love them mre than anything. My step dad was a part of my life since I was 2. I'm 33 and I lost him last year. I never wanted to betray my dad but I loved my step dad very much and when I got older we had a much better relationship. I lost him a year ago and I miss him! If I can help with listening or anything please let me know!

This teen is definately out of control. If your husband is in denial about parenthood and his ex whose head is up her rectum has not taught the girl "respect", self or otherwise, why would you subject a new baby to the same fathering skills? You can't do it on your own. All kids need dads and a moms whenever possible. Make your husband "deal" with this teen before she's lost. I worked for a high school 15 years, I know what I'm talking about even if I am blunt. Don't try to be a friend to this child. Stay firm and let him know that if he doesn't want your input to HIS child, let her stay with her mother-don't subject the new baby to this nasty attitude.

Hi V.,
I think you need to take your step daughter to planned parenthood or to her Doc & get her on birth control. Then you, and or the Dr., need to talk to her about being sexually responsible. Tell her that even if she is on BC she must insist on using condoms. She needs to know & understand all the facts & consequences that come with being sexually active. Telling her to not have sex & to stay away from boys is only going to drive her further away. She is probably already sexually active & there is no turning back now. It's better for her to be safe & informed. You must also promise her that you will not tell her father or her mother & you must honor that promise. This will help her to trust you again & hopefully come to you when she needs help.

"QUESTION: How far can a "step-mom" go in helping in this situation?" You'll have to go VERY FAR because she is your daughter too (even if she has a mother). I would definitely try counseling (individual for her AND family counseling). She is acting out for a reason (some of her behaviors sound like normal adolescent behaviors and some are not) and you have to get to the root of the problem. Counseling will help. Don't ignore the problem, it will only get worse.


I am sorry about what you are going through and I hope that things do get better. My advice to you is to just leave the decisions to the parents even though I know you care for this girl and you want to help her out. You cannot help someone that does not want to get help and the harder you try the harder she will push back. It would be nice if the parents agreed with you and supported you on getting her some counseling because she obviously has the wrong concept about her relationships with the opposite sex. If you have tried all that you can do give her advice then that is all that you can keep doing. Maybe when you talk to her try an ask her why she is making the decisions she is doing and maybe you can find out how she truly feels. Maybe her parents divorce really affected her and she is trying to find "love" or affection that she is missing or feels she is missing from her father.
I will pray that things get better.

It sounds like your step daughter has self-esteem issues and could do with some help. Counseling would be good. Of course if both her parents don't want your input, then that is pretty hard. You can only suggest and try to be as supportive as possible for your step daughter.

I too am a step-mother of a now 20 year old. I have experienced a similar situation with my daughter and you are in a tough spot. The girl is screaming for attention and I urge you to sit down with your husband and talk to him so that he can talk to her mother and provide her with some counseling right away. My husband did not want to get involved because he is a "guy" and did not want to deal with the ex, but you have to consider the importance of helping her at this critical time. Since her mother was receptive to you telling her about the myspace stuff, perhaps she will appreciate the concern. It will be ultimately up to her 2 parents to step in and try to help her get through this without regretable mistakes. You can help by asking her mother what you can do to help without stepping on her toes or being judgmental. In my situation, our daughter's behaviors became more and more serious because her mother was not engaged and had her own issues at the time and it led to huge emotional and financial problems for our entire family and we are feeling it even years later. She needs parents right now, not adults trying to be her friend, she needs rules and has to be held accountable for her actions. As her parents, you have to do your best that you can while she is in your home when she is there, and do not enable her to make bad choices. If I had my way, I would ban MySpace permanently as I feel it gives young people too much rope to hang themselves at a critical age when they are not emotionally prepared to handle it. The stuff I have seen on there through my daughter's links and friends was enough to make me sick and not be able to sleep at night.

Although I appreciate your concern for her, I do think that her mother and father need to be the ones that address these issues. Since it is impacting your life however, and will ultimately impact those of her step sibs, I suggest you insist to your husband that he get into counseling with her. I doubt that she will respond to your "authority" or suggestions given your history with her, no matter how sincere your desire to help her. I agree with another poster that the adults in this girl's life have dropped the ball. Now it's sooo easy to blame her for everything. Your husband needs to see his responsibility in all of this, and oc course we don't know from your post what gives with the mom. Husband needs to have a good relationship with her in order to focus on the girl and help her through the rough patch. It really doesn't have to go down the tubes from here, but you all need pro help.

You are in a tough spot, but try to keep in mind she has a mother. I don't know what kind of mother she is, butthat gives you a little more room to be more like a friend. Your step-daughter and you obviously need to work out some issues. Try to set some boundaries with her and have her set them with you. Let her know that you love her and care for her. Tell her that she can trust you and come to you with anything, but that inappropiate stuff will be reported back to her father and/or mother. Once she can see that you can be trusted, maybe her behavior won't seem so bad, and you have a better way of communicating how unsafe what she's doing is. Also pray on it. Good luck.

You sound like such a wonderful person to want to help this little girl while everyone else buries their heads in the sand. I have a son in the Navy, so I know that the Navy has lots of help for different things. Perhaps there is a connection where a counselor or someone could advise you on how to handle it. I wish I was multi-talented and could find some of those on the computer right now.Call your Ombudsman and see if there are counseling groups or advisors to help. On top of the issues of her age(so ukkkkky) she might have had deployment issues which you seems to be handling but she might not. I was reading how we/they actually go through the same progression as so many other losses.I know I was quite a wreck when my son went over there and other son was about the same age group as your step-daughter during this process. Despite the fact that your husband is a good man I am sure that it is a little overwhelming to transfer to civilian life. If you want to talk more let me know. It is not always easy these days to be in a military family.A step-mother that caring is a gift to this little girl and you can go as far as you want letting her know she is so loved.

I too have a 14 yr old step daughter that is doing many of these things. Our situation is a little different though. I don't have much advice for you since we're kind of struggling with what to do over here as well...but you need to get your husband as involved as possible. What you have described sounds a lot of what I did at her age (minus the myspace since it wasn't available then lol) but I did end up pregnant at 16.

I'm not sure how much a "step mom" can do, especially since it sounds like she doesn't have any respect for you anymore. But whoever it was that told you to take her to planned parenthood is very wrong. That is NOT your job whatsoever.

How involved is your husband in her life? I ask because a father's role is very important. My dad wasn't much part of mine when I was her age, he is now but that caused problems as a teenager and I was very insecure. Good luck!

First, I commiserate from both sides of the fence; as the 15 yo step-daughter and as the mom of a 15yo!! (Been there HAVE that!) You ARE a parent no matter what it looks like to anyone else. She needs you to love her and have Tough Love. She also needs her father to be "hard" on her to earn his respect and know that he LOVES her. Sounds to me that she is pushing and wants to know there is someone that loves her enough to do whatever it takes to push her back into line. (She may not EVER say this or even acknowledge it!) Get it together w/ the other parents as you are a team and need to act as ONE. Your SD needs to come first. Do whatever it takes NOW. Pray!!!

Talk to her about the acting out on Myspace and the REAL dangers of STD, etc, Do NOT condone sex (take her for the pill...) but tell her what that you expect her to as smart as she is and to abstain! Do not give her the green light to behave badly. No outside contact (on the internet)- that is a privilege not a right!! Danger, Danger....Dad especially better get a good relationship going w/ this girl so she doesn't have to look elsewhere! They need to be involved in counseling and other activities together...maybe even w/ Mom, and/or you. Pray!

The mom who suggested taking her to planned parenthood to get on birth control needs to stop and think. What if your own daughter's stepmother did this without your knowledge? I myself would be really pissed off. The fact is that this girl has a mother and father. Because her father is out of the picture right now is why she is may be acting out. Girls need a father figure,especially in the teenage years. Unfortunately, you cannot fill that role in his absence. I have heard that the number one reason for divorce in second marriage is over the step-children issue. I would kind of back off and let her mother and father decide what to do from here. You can always offer suggestions etc. Maybe one thing you could have done different is to talk to her when you caught her on the internet posing as a 18 year old( not telling her mom...tell your husband instead). Let her feel as though you are a safe person to talk to, not an enemy. You will have a better relationship in the long run with her.

I agree with Glenview M. Please take her advice seriously. I came from a similar situation. Unless you come from a broken home it is difficult to empathize and understand. Dad and mom need to step up to the plate. It is not your place to. As a woman you are in a good position to help your husband understand and strengthen his relationship with his daughter. This should be your number one priority. You will need to re-connect with her through kindness and understanding, not an iron fist. She is clearly in pain.

Alot of this sounds like some pretty severe teenage angst. Couple that with a deployed father and you have some big issues. Yes she's acting out, yes it's probably already become a sexual rebellion. based on what you've said, if she's sending those messages out on MySpace, she's only looking for one thing. Oh and more than likely she's experimenting with alcohol and drugs. Though every teenager tells their "'rents" to "mind your own business..It's my LIFE!" at some point. Unfortunately if her parents have both asked you to stay out of it, you have to. What you can do is make suggestions about getting her to a counselor(though at this point it may/may not help), or take her to volunteer with aids patients at a hospital. You could blame a myriad of things, but blame is not going to fix the problem. Focus on solutions. Be a watch-dog. Make a rule in your home that her bags etc must be searched for the safety of the little ones. Maybe your hubby can go to her moms and do a full inspection of her room. Sorry but she needs a hostile takeover with what she regards as "private". Rule number one, in my house is (now what I did to my parents) you have no private life till you move out and pay your own bills, under my roof my business. she obviously doesn't respect her mom or your husband, so it really doesn't matter about nicely getting her to come around. My mom tried the "share the love" way, and I just blew her off. Just make suggestions to your hubby for her, and rules for your own house. What she does in your house is your business, because it does affect your kids. As for your husband's being lost, well of course he is. He left on a deployment not ready for his little girl to be a grown up, and came back to a teenage hell raiser. Admitting to the sexual side of it is not going to happen now, so tread lightly there with him. He may just lose it if he's forced to face it head on. The best you can do for him is to be supportive, and not push him too hard or fast. She'll eventually slip up somehow and need his help, at which point both parents will probably be more open to your help. Just keep your eyes and ears open for her, to see what she's up to.

If your husband does not want to get his daughter counseling, you and he could go in to a counselor to get on the same team about her behavior. There are good books on parenting teens, but it is often more effective for a parent to hear it from a counselor, and then read the book. You all have a great motivator in turning behavior around if all three of you work as a team. She is of driving class age, then driving. Most teens want this so badly they will make some changes to get to take drivers ed. Then driving priveleges can be used as a consequence when you do let her get to drive. Watch for symptoms of alcohol and drug use. Get to know what they are and share them with your husband and his ex. If any are seen then do a home drug test. If she balks, or comes up positive, counseling should be a must. All this should be done from a place of calm loving energy but strong and consistent with all parents being on the same team....a must. I know a twice a month evening group in Crystal Lake for parents of teens with behavior or drug problems. It helps parents at a low cost to get drug/alcohol and parenting info. and support. Let me know if you want to know more.

I will advise you to turn attention to your own girls. Right now they are little but they will grow up. Your step daughter lives with her mom, so why are you bothering to be nice to her and take her places? As a Nurse you probably suffering from "I want to help" syndrome. It is between your husband and his ex. Be careful because if his first daughter turned that way, what kind of a father is he? May be he is uninvolved or too permissive? I do not know, but evaluate his parenting style and try to compensate as much as you can with your own girs. Girls need strong and steady male influence. They need to feel respected, valued, comforted, etc. They need to feel that daddy is a rock that will stand by them. It is difficuld situation for you, but your husband and his ex made choices for this girl that she a them have to live with now. You just there an extra person involved but you are not her parent.

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do for her. She lives with the mom, and dad sounds like he is in denial. Things would be different if she lived with you and her dad...you then, would have more of a say. However, on times she comes to stay at your house to visit dad, you can enforce the house rules with or without your husband. Your roof, your rules...not to mention she is setting examples for the other siblings.

Maybe you need to start working on your husband so he can see the light and where she is headed. Once you have him on your side, you have a better chance with and for your step daughter.

C. T.

Sorry I disagree with the people who say that her parents have to be the ones that do something. I think that as step-parents we take on an obligation when we marry the parent to the child. I dont know her relationship with her mom but in one of my step daughters cases her mom was trying to be the friend. A friend so much that she let my step son come live with us. My other step daughter who is from a previous relationship and not by my husband til this day still calls and talks to me. She even thanks me for not giving up on her when everybody else seem to and let her do whatever. I know sometimes it can take an emotional toll.Try to call teh school where the child goes without the parents knowing and explain teh sitution. See if a concelar can talk to her and possible the mom. Dont give up on this child because even though it may not seem like it now in the end this child will thank you for not givining up on her. If you feel the need to vent just email me ____@____.com

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