24 answers

Step-Daughter Issues

Hello all...
I am needing some advice on my step-daughter. First of all it is one of those unfortunately common situations where the child's mother enjoys putting our family down to the child. Anyway, my step-daugher is 8 years-old and has been a single child up until 5 months ago. She has no cousins living nearby, and is extremely spoiled by her mother and maternal grandparents (she has electronics before we do!). My husband and I recently moved about 1.5 hours away and had a new baby. At first she was very excited about the baby and came to visit us frequently. She has always left happy, and we each make one-on-one time with her. Since my husband and I both have the summer off, we were planning on taking her for extended periods of time over the summer. This is where I need advice. Her mother has enrolled her in several summer activities, also mother is now claiming panic attacks because of her job, has quit her job to have the summer off also, and is telling my step-daughter that she is ill and needs her around. My step-daughter has stopped visiting and/or calling us. Should we push her to come to our house, or simply keep encouraging her to do so, and letting her know how much we miss her? My husband and I are afraid to put more pressure on her, and we are unsure if she really doesn't want to come, or if it is her home situation that is keeping her from visiting.
P.S. The parents have joint custedy(sp), with no set visitation schedule, and mom is not really sick.

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As a step-child myself who went through this as a girl, my advice would be to have the three parents (Dad, Mom, step-Mom) work this out between the adults. Then tell her what days/weeks she will be with Mom & which with you guys. Otherwise she is being put in the middle & she it too young to have to choose.

No matter what I did as a child, one parent was mad & the other happy. It was not a nice situation for me to be in & now I have no relationship w/ my dad.

Best of luck to you & congratulations on the new baby!!!

More Answers

Hi J.,

Sounds like you are in a difficult situation and your step-daughter is in a more difficult situation. I would seriously consider going back to court and getting a set schedule for visitation. She needs to be with her Dad too, and she should not be put in the role of a caregiver. She is a child and needs to have a childhood. If her mother is claiming to be that ill maybe suggest taking her so that her mother can get her rest and get better.

I am also divorced and no matter how much I dislike my ex I would never keep my son from his dad. Good luck


you said she was 8, my daughter is a couple months shy of 8, and in no way shape or form, would i expect her to stay home and take care of me for any reason. your husband has to step up and point out that if the maternal mother was really ill, the 8 year shouldn't be there. the mother should be getting help from family and friends that are adults and from nurses. of course if she really isn't ill, this will all change once your husband steps up. but honestly, if he were to push the matter, and was available all summer, he could get a lawyer involved and if mom is really ill, they wouldn't expect the child to be there all summer taking care of her.

What type of relationship do you have with your husband's ex? Are you friendly? Does your husband have a good relationship with her?
Sounds like mom is feeling insecure about things and the daughter may be caught in the middle.
It's very common in situations like these, when dad remarries and has a child, that dad suddenly decides he wants full custody. Mom could be afraid of that happening.
My suggestion would be to talk to mom in an understanding way and try to be friends with her, working together to co-parent the child. Let her know you're there for her and you want to be a team.
It is very hard raising a child alone, she may want the emotional support she lost when they divorced.
This is a tough situation but sadly all too common. I know, I'm in it too.
Good luck!

I think that since you have came into the picture and have a new baby, the mother of your step daughter is probably feeling threatened by your happy family and is acting up on that. My brother's first wife was that way after he remarried years after their divorice, even though she was already married and had two more children. I think it is a treat to her to have another woman in her child's life acting as a mother. It is selfish of her to use her daughter like that, doesn't matter if she is sick or not, to expect a 8 year old to take care of her is horrible.

First thing I would do if I were your husband is get a set visitation schedule, joint custody or not, you need it set where there is arguments over when she will be at your house.
Look into summer activities available in your area and enroll her into some, so she isn't missing out on anything.
Then let her know that you want her with you both. Let her know that you aren't taking her mother's place, but also let her know that you love her very much, that her father loves her and misses her while she is gone. Let her know that if anyone says anything negitive about her dad (or her mom) she has the right to stand up to them and say "That is MY Dad" Or "that is MY mom" to remind them not to talk negitive things about someone she loves. I did this with my niece when my sister and her husband divoriced. When my sister would talk horrible things about her ex, my niece would agree but would look so hurt too. My niece was 18 years old at the time. I told my niece who said she didn't want to visit her dad and grandparents because they would talk bad about her mom, she has a right to stand up and say "That is my mom, don't speak of her like that in front of me" and I said to her that she should and could do the same thing if she hears someone talking that way about her dad. She burst out crying and my sister realized what she had been doing and how it effected her daughter. She never again said anything negitive about him and they are now very good friends. Kids shouldn't have to pay for parents dislike of one another.
The only way you can keep her out of the middle when arguing about who gets her for the summer is having set visitations.

Don't pressure her to visit, but let her know that you love having her visit you. She obviously needs a stable environment to come to where she can be a child. Further, if you pursue court involvement, be prepared for her mother's response-whatever that may be. It is important to have a set plan in place for situations like this, but there may be some initial "fall-out" if mom is the kind of person to stoop to the level of making her daughter responsible for her. Your stepdaughter may be reluctant to come for visits because she feels she is betraying her mother by enjoying time with your family and leaving mom alone. Maybe you should confront her mother on this situation. Find out her motivations for the things she is telling her daughter and maybe even point out the position she is putting her daughter in. You could even find that this is actually more about your stepdaughter's perception of things rather than what she has actually been told. If this is the case, mom can help reassure her-hopefully. No matter what, this sounds like a very delicate situation. Mom appears to be having issues with your new family status, but she shouldn't be making those issues into her daughter's. It may also be helpful to involve someone who can be a bit more objective-maybe a grandparent? I know sometimes the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree so that may not be helpful, but it's worth a shot. This sounds eerily like something my husband's ex would do. She went so far as to basically tell my stepdaughter (she's 6) that she was being replaced by my son and her dad would not want her anymore. But, my stepdaughter seems to be giving it all right back to her-she told her mother that she could not have baby with her boyfriend. Unfortunately, mine may be a case where the apple is lying right next to the tree! Good luck to you!

The advice about the court ordered visitation is important, however, you are just beginning some long years of struggles. You as the stepmom have to take a deep breath and step back. I'm speaking from experience with my stepdaughter who is now 22. You should always make her feel special and welcomed at your home, include her in all family plans. I wouldn't push her to visit, just encourage. Sometimes she will be hurtful, but keep in mind what her Mom is telling her and that she is only a child. If you are a Christian, you will need to do a lot of praying. It's also important that you and your hubby see eye to eye on discipline before there's a problem. God bless your special blended family!

Is there any way you (or your husband really) can deal with this directly with the mother? Do you have any type of set visitation that she can't take away from you? If you do, and your stepdaughter is opting out (which is likely being provoked by mother's guilt), your husband needs to make it very clear that he loves her very much too, and it's important for her to spend time with your family too. She would likely be fine once she got there. If you don't have set visitation rights, and the mother can keep her as she pleases, you'll probably have to take the high road, and keep calling and reassuring your stepdaughter how much you love her, and miss her without putting any direct pressure on her to come. (keep the pressure on her mom) I am a stepdaughter myself, and there's nothing worse than feeling guilty about leaving your sad mother alone (especially at 8), except thinking that your dad and stepmom don't love you as much. I've been through both. I'm also a stepmom, so if you ever want to talk, definitely email me!


This has got to be between your husband and your ex. Regardless of how courteously you try and handle it, bringing a step parent into these kind of things fuels an already ugly fire.

Please make sure that your step-daughter doesn't get caught in a tug of war. Of course you want to see her because you love her, but her feelings have got to come before yours and your husband's. Let her know you love to have her visit and she is always welcome, but don't give any pressure. Children have this uncanny ability to make every parent's problem their fault. She is probably feeling guilty already.

Good luck,

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