Need Help with Relationship Between Step Dad and Daughter

Updated on May 09, 2009
J.T. asks from Champaign, IL
13 answers

I need some ideas for my husband to be able to bond better with my six year old. We have been together for 3yrs, and some days things are fine and others are not. Here is some back ground to better understand the situation: Her father and me were together for 5yrs 3 of which she was alive for. I moved out a week before mothers day with her when she was 3. Her dad is one of those guys that gets back at you were it will hurt you the most. So he went to the courts and made up some story about me beating her and got full custody of her the Friday before mothers day where i could only see her twice a week with somebody there. When i got to go to court to tell my story it got thrown out and now we have joint custody. I got with my husband about 6 months after all this happened. At first everything was great, but then her dad started bring girls into her life and then they would leave and she wouldn't know why. That is when the problems started. I have tried letting them have there time together so that can bond and that works for a little while until she goes back her dads and then it is like we have to start all over again. I have tried to get her dad on the same page as us but he wants nothing to do with it. I am about out of answers. I just wish i knew what is going on in her little head. We have sat her down and told her that my Husband is not replacing her dad nor would he want to. We have also not pushed what she calls him. She has asked me many of times if she has to call him dad and I told her that she did not but if she wanted to she could. If anybody has any advice I would appreciate. Thanks

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answers from Chicago on

SOunds like the 6yr old could benefit from some counseling? Maybe there is a group of kids at school going through the same thing?

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answers from Chicago on

I raised 3 kids with a step-father and they all had good relationships with him as kids, as teenagers, it has been a mixed bag - but I think things will settle again after the turbulent teen years. Relationships do change and evolve over time, so be patient. The book "Mom's House, Dad's House" was a big help for us, as was some counseling. The counselor helped us identify what were issues we needed to address with the ex, and more importantly, what to ignore. As awful as the ex may be, never denegrate him in front of your daughter. If she reports things that are not true, say "I don't know why your father would say that, my memory (or my understanding) is ..." and if she wants to report issues with her dad (as long as it is not abusive) say "that is between you and your dad" or "that sounds like something you need to talk to your dad about". Keep all communications with the dad brief and business like. All of this is incredibly difficult - it is difficult to resist the temptation to counter any comments the ex may make about you, it is difficult to resist the urge to tell her your side of the story. Just have confidence that over time your relationship, and your husband's relationship, will be based on her experience with you, NOT anything her dad is saying/doing.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Peoria on

Hi J.,

I am writing as someone who has been in somewhat the same situation as you. My daughters father lives in a different state and blah..blah..blah. I am not going to bore you with the details. I met my now husband when she was 6. She is almost 13 now. And we have had our moments don't get me wrong. But when she is talking about him, it's let me ask my dad. When she talks to him it's by his name. He teaches her all kinds of things. Sure, we have attitudes and things. But there is one thing she has never said is that "you're not my dad." She might think it some days when she does not get what she wants. He takes her places on the weekend. When he talks about her or introduces her to new people he says "this is my daughter....". It's great for me to hear that. We have been together since 02 married in 05.

When we got married, my daughter went running to him crying and giving him hugs and said to him "you're my dad now". They had a dance together at my wedding. Kind of like a father-daughter dance, they danced to "In my daughters eyes, by Martina McBride"

For the most part, they have a great realationship. But it is learning a lesson process with both sides. Him coming into a family already and her being introduced to a man. So, just remember, it's all about her. It has taken a long time to put the past behind me and it not even close to being easy that is for sure.

As long as your husband is there for her, she will remember that in the long run. Your daughter is taking all of this in and storing it in her brain. I never said anything bad about her father, even though I wanted to. I want her to have her own feelings. I am there when he breaks his promises to pick up the peices and so is my husband.

I hope everything goes well for you. Good luck with that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi J.:

It sounds to me that your little girl is scared, confused and caught in the middle of drama orhcestrated between her parents (namely her father).

Unfortunately, the best thing you can do for her is to be kind and gentle to her always. You should place a photo of her Dad and her in her room and a photo of you and her in her room too. Make sure you send a message to her that both of you LOVE HER! She needs to know that her family still exists. Also, tell her no matter who she sees her father with or how many "visitors" he has, that YOU are her mother--first, last, always.

Second, write her father a note (without emotion) as to your inerests for your daughter and how you hope he can mimick this in his home to bring some stability to her young life thus far. Ask him to place a photo of "you and her" and "Him and her" so she can see this in his home too. It will reaffirm some stability to her that you both love her and no one blames her for the separation.

Third, for your new husband and her not to bond before the marriage is a real problem for me. How long were you divorced from her father before you got involved with the new man. Not to sound like I'm being judgmental but your new husband and her should have had a good relationship and bond before you married so that you would know wether or not getting married was the best thing at that time. This alone is another issue that requires patience.

Lastly, try a family therapist or a group session of divorced moms and children on a weekly basis. Buy some books and read with her. That is together time with just you and her sharing with each other through books. Buy books that relate to little girl things, to moms, daughters, dads, and other kid interests. She will trust you more and may begin opening up to you about her fears. Spend more one on one time with her and then include the stepdad with the two of you. Go bowling, to chuckee cheese, to the park (if it is warm) but be with them. It will take time and patience on your end and the stepdad too but your daughter is worth it, isn't she?

I hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I don't have any children, but I am the only child of my parents, who married other people. I can tell you in one word how your daughter is feeling confused. Like any child in this situation, her relationship with her father is being interrupted by strange women. It's already difficult enough adjusting to the idea of having your parents in two different places without having to deal with them seeing other people.

This process can be less painful and confusing if a few things happen:
1) You and your husband should continue to stay consistent with your love, protection and discipline with her.

2) Try having your husband talk to your ex to build a relationship in the interest of the child. This may be difficult at first, but it is possible. Sometimes, guys respond better to other guys. When the two of them form that relationship, your husband can relate to him how you're trying to raise your daughter and how much better it would be of he enforced the same rules.

3) Allow your daughter the opportunity to express her feelings to you, even if she is not able to relate them fully, reassure her that you are here for her and that no matter what she says or does, you will always love her.



answers from Chicago on

I don't have a lot of advise. What I do know is that children of divorce generally blame themself and think that if they were better it would have never happened. So she is probable feeling some of that.

I also know that the best thing you can do for your children of any age to love each other. That is the most important. It brings security to their lives.

If you are praying people...I would suggest for you and your daughter to pray for her dad, together, out loud at night before she goes to bed. this will help her care and help her feel like you care, which is what she needs.

Hope this helps. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

K. P



answers from Chicago on

I have no experience whatsoever to be able to give you advice on what you could do. But I did see in your little bio about you that you have another 18 month old daughter. So that means, you became pregnant with your second child when your older daughter was younger than 4. Do you think any issues or insecurities could stem from the fact that you have anothe r child with your second husband? I don't know if you've considered it. But, I know, with my two children, my daughter did go through a period of insecurity and jealousy after my son was born - it wasn't right after, but it developed when he was about 6 to 8 months old (both have the same father). Subconciously, she might think your husband would only love your second daughter. I don't know if your first husband would ever feed those kinds of ideas into her head. Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

I write this as a child of divorce. My mom was remarried twice in my time that I lived at home. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but both my sister and I had a wonderful relationship with our step-dad. In fact, we often referred to him as "Dad" when talking about him. When talking to him, we always called him "Steve".

Looking back, I feel the reason that we had such a great relationship with Steve was two-fold, #1) it was never, ever forced. It just happened. We did things as a family. Steve helped us with homework, he taught me how to play baseball, ride a bike and drive. There was never the pressure that we had to "bond" or anything. Life just went on. They were the most memorable times of my childhood.

The second thing that I credit to the relationship was although my Dad was in another state and never paid child support, my mom never brought that stress into our lives. Forgive me if I'm off base here, but I read some hostility and anger in your post regarding the father of your daughter. It doesn't matter what women he dates or brings in his life (unless they are causing harm to your daughter, obviously).

You mentioned getting him on the same page as you, what page are you referring to? Being happily married to someone else like you are? Your daughter developing a relationship with your new husband?

In my opinion, the best thing you can do is offer her a happy, secure environment when your daughter is with you. The weather is getting nicer. Do some fun things together as a family. The zoo, Children's Museum, parks, Sunday at Arlington Park is Family Day.

Just spend time as a family and (I beleive) the rest will fall into place.

Good luck.



answers from Chicago on

You cannot control what your ex-husband does and trying to do so will teach your daughter how to "play" both of you, putting her at odds of having to choose step-dad and mom over dad and girl-friend. While it may seem very indirect, one of the best things you can do is to give your daughter permission to enjoy her relationship with her dad and the women in her dad's life. By not worrying about your ex-husband's life-style choices, you are helping your daughter learn to cope with the challenges she faces. She then will be more free to not feel as if she is choosing between dad and step dad in your home. When you do go out as a family, include her as part of your family, just as you would your other daughter. It is also okay for her to ask your husband questions about his work, and his family and to learn his hobbies, but he should also help he with homework, read to her and give her the time she needs to discover that he is their for her. If you sing, play sports, go to church, or to the park, do it as a family. The more your husband participates in her life on a daily basis she will learn who is there for her. He will never replace her father, nor should he try, but by understanding that it is healthy for all people, adults and children to have many friends to turn to when they need support she will soon discover that her step dad will be one of those that she will learn to trust. One of her dad's girl friends will end up as her step mom and you want her to be able to have that respectful and loving relationship with her as well. The children will know who made them, but they can never have enough people to love them and there is room in your daughters life for all of these relationships. Coping with the grief issues she faces is difficult. No one wants to lose friends once they are met, and at her age she is overloaded on grief as she is constantly being forced to say good by. She did not just lose the friend that moved away, but lost a sgnificant adult in her life. After spending 20 years as a military spouse and raising two kids who have seen many friends come and go, I can honestly share that she will learn that security comes from the ones who are stable in her life and that will grow over time and age. The sadness and fear she is feeling is her way of expressing how important these people were to her. Let her know that you undestand how sad she is and how difficult it is to lose anothe friend, but you are not a friend you are mom. By your husband listening to her and giving her the place to vent those emotions will help your husband grow closer to your daughter over time and when the time comes for her first break up in another 6 years, she will have the friend and coping skills that she needs to realize that she will also survive that heartbreak too. Remember your goal is not to take away her pain, but to teach her life coping skills so that when she has to deal with these issues in her own life she understands that you ae there for her. Not that I am planning your demise, but in many regards the eyes of your daughter are correct, she is seeing that you as a mom may not always be there for her and honestly that day will come and this will help her have the skills to know that she will survive that too. No one said being Mom was easy, but you are right, this is making it more difficult. Just remember as much as you may not think about it as a young mother the day is coming when you want your daughter to be a healthy adult and this is just one of many of those lessons that is teaching her what that will mean. Is it unfair that she has to learn it so young? Yes. Give her a hug and realize that by the time she is 12 she will be trying to get rid of her first boyfriend knowing that you and your husband will be there to get her through that too. Hopefully through this experience she will have a more caring heart for others and will discover that she is a very loyal friend. I'm the mom to two military brats and there will be plenty of coming and going in your daughters life and your husband's girlfreinds are only the tip of the iceberg. As long as you are there to support her, she will be fine and may even end up a social worker, pastor or family life educator using these very skills you are helping her to create in a very productive way one day. Good Luck!



answers from Chicago on

My second son was raised more with his step father. I think that you can't really push it, it will just happen. If he is kind to her, and the family does things together then it will evolve. That is part of the life of mixed blended oh what is the politically correct word these days -families. Sometimes people just tolerate eachother. And even if the relationship turns out to be wonderful at this stage of the game, then they grow into teenagers. And that we know is another story. You just keep loving your guy and she will see how important he is to you. And since your ex is not on the same page with you my advise (hard to follow myself is to have as little to do with him as possible. He sounds like he'd be happy to undermine your nice relationship.Good luck



answers from Chicago on

Presuming she is in school, many schools have a program called "Rainbows" that helps children deal with the effects of divorce/remarriage/etc. If not, I would see if the social worker at her school could work with her. Sometimes an objective adult can get info out of children much better than their own parents. It sounds counterintuitive but true.



answers from Chicago on

hey girl, I'm glad to hear the court thing worked out. Kids are fennicky as well as volunnerable, oh and need i say perceptive. you may want to in a nice way let ex know how his dating decissions is having an effect on you two's daughter. (be nice).also keep in mind that your not telling him how to live or how to run his house. The child is looking for stability and hey you may just be the parent who can give her that. don't force your liking on to your child, these things take time. Patience tolerance and understanding. she may think he'll be leaving too and dosen't want to get attached. And what does hubby have to say about all this anyway? you didn't mention how he's feeling. Could it just be you? Any time you want to know what's going on with your child then just ask them how they feel, they like that. This is what works for me, i would take them somewhere relaxing or fun (their favorite spot)and while you all are doing your thing start asking little questions about what they think, no, whats their oppinion on something, or how a situation makes them feel and don't comment just say " oh , that's in teresting,or, thank you for your honesty, and an even better one " I love it when you tell me how you feel".



answers from Chicago on

J. - I went through a very similar situation only it was with my son. My son was 4 when his dad & I split. He was 5 when I remarried. His father made the same accusations about me and my new husband and won custody after 2 years of court hearings. Unfortunately it was very difficulat for my new husband to completely accept my son because of his father & what he did. I tried so hard to get them to bond and have a good relationship. And after 13 years we divorced. My son and their relationship had a lot to do with the divorce. Like you I never asked him to call him dad and my husband never wanted to take the place of his dad.

Looking back, this is the advice I would give myself..... stop trying. Let the child and step parent form their own relationship, whatever that might be. I can see that by me placing expectations on both my husband and my son I only created more tension between them. Neither one of them were comfortable having the relationship "I" wanted them to have but felt they had to because it was what I wanted. Once my husband and I were divorced my son and he grew very close. When I asked them "why now, after all these years of me trying to help you be close and bond... why now??" They both replied with similar answers... I finally got out of their way and left them alone about it. From then on I took my own father's advice.... "Let Go and Let God". It sounds to me like your new husband cares deeply about your daughter and would never hurt her, emotionally or physically. So maybe try to let them find their own bond. My son is now 25 and he's just now remembering and learning what his father did and the awful custody battle we went through. A few months ago he thanked me for letting him discover things on his own and for not bad mouthing his dad. I've learned that time does heal... and kids are more resiliant that we ever think they are. Hope this helps.


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