Being a Stepparent: What You Need to Know to Make It Work

Being a Stepparent: What you Need to Know To Make Them Work

I’ve done a lot of hard things. I’ve run a marathon (well, technically a ‘fun run’ but it did require running shorts, running and sweat so I stand firm on ‘marathon’); I’ve given up sugar (not gonna lie – worst 2 hours of my life) and I’ve travelled (‘Middle East, solo, broke with a backpack’ travelled, not ‘may I take your bags Madam? The lift to the 34th floor is just past the atrium’ travelled).

Being a step-parent is up there with the hardest. My stepchildren are adults now and even though the fog has cleared, I still claim that it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve done.

From the outset, there are things about a stepfamily that would likely hint at trouble if they happened in a biological family:

  • Another person (the other biological parent) has a hand in some of the big decisions that affect your family – the way the kids are raised (which will always have an impact on your home), weekends, holidays, family rituals, rules. Though you will have a say, there’s a third person who is invested and who will potentially want to be heard.
  • The alliance between the parent and child in a biological family is potentially stronger (understandably) than the couple. In a biological family, both parents have an equal say and big decisions are made by the couple. In a stepfamily, matters to do with the child will often be between the biological parents, or the biological parent and child. Potentially, the step-parent will have less influence in decisions that impact the family and the individuals in it.
  • The step-parent is an outsider. There are years of shared history, memories, connection and experiences between members of the biological family that the step-parent will never be a part of. Of course, there is great potential for the stepfamily to grow into something new and wonderful, but first there will be a bit of compromise.

Being the second wife/husband/important person does have benefits, the main one of which is that your partner already has a realistic idea of the work that’s required to make a marriage work. There are no illusions the second time around in relation to the marriage, though there may be a few in relation to the family.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to smooth the bumps along the way, even if you can’t completely disappear them:

  1. Let go of the fantasy.

    It sounds simple enough (it’s not) but it could be the difference between your relationship working or not. That’s not overstating it. It really is that important.

    An abundance of research has confirmed that unhappiness is caused by the distance between expectations and reality. It’s not so much the situation that causes distress but that the situation is different to what’s expected.

    In a stepfamily, everyone comes with their own fantasy. It’s completely normal and inevitable – but if you hang on to the fantasy too tightly, it could very well fall you. Most couples come into a stepfamily thinking that the family will immediately gel, the relationships will be tight, everyone will feel the love and the family will be a happy one. But it really doesn’t work like that.

    In a biological family, there would be problems if there was no expectation that you will love your children, they’ll love you back and all will be close. In a stepfamily though, these fantasies set up the potential for profound disappointment. Why? Because all family members come with their own fantasy, some of which are completely incompatible.

    Patricia Papernow is a leader in the field of stepfamilies. Her book, Being a Stepfamily, is the best I’ve read. (Just in case you were wondering, this is not an affiliate link – I just love the book. It was a game-changer for me in my own experience as a step-parent.) She identified the following fantasies which are typical in a stepfamily:

    •  Step-parent: ‘We’ll be one big happy family. The kids will love me. I’ll love them back. My relationship will be solid. I can’t wait for us all to be a family.’

    •  Biological Parent: ‘My partner will love the kids as much as I do and the kids will love him/her back. The kids will be so grateful for everything he/she gives this family. I just can’t wait to show everyone how happy we can be as a family.’

    •  The kids: ‘It’s only a matter of time before mum and dad get back together. They actually love each other a lot and as soon as they realise that we can be a family again.’

    Letting go of the fantasy allows for greater acceptance of the reality, more respect for what ‘is’ and more of the flexibility that’s needed to get to wherever you’re going as a family. A stepfamily can be as happy and successful as any other, but it will be different. It’s important to let go of the fantasy gently though, because your imaginings of what things would be like would have been a big part of the reason you decided to do this. And don’t worry, let go of the fantasy and reality will see to it that eventually, something at least as good will take its place.

  2. See the rough patches for what they are – a progression not a fall.

    There are going to be rough patches and that’s okay. Accept them as a sign of progress towards a new kind of family – one with you in it. Your experience of the stepfamily might be different to what you expected but it doesn’t mean a happy ending isn’t coming.

    It’s likely that at some point you will feel like an outsider, as well as jealous, lonely, resentful, confused and inadequate. You’ll probably experience hostility, indifference or rejection from your stepkids and more than likely you’ll fight with your partner more than you expected. This is normal. Accept it, let it unfold and most importantly don’t take it personally, though I know that’s easier said than done.

    It feels like a shakeup, and it is, but it’s all part of the adjustment the family has to go through to get to something better.  The family is recalibrating and changing shape to make way for you. That sort of adjustment was never going to be easy. Sometimes things have to fall apart a little so they can come back together in a different way. See the rough patches for what they are – a remaking, a realignment, a progression towards something new, rather than a threat.

  3. Understand and respond to the loyalty bind.

    It’s normal for children to worry that their acceptance of a step-parent might betray their biological parent. They might worry that if they like you, accept you or love you, their biological parent will be hurt or angry. This may increase their need to show loyalty to the biological parent by rejecting you or being hostile to you to ‘prove’ their love and loyalty to their parent.

    If you suspect a loyalty bind might be at play, see it for what it is and don’t take it personally. Let your stepchild know that you aren’t trying to replace his or her biological parent and that you know nobody could ever do that. Let them know it’s okay to feel as they do and that you will work through it together.

    Next, gently put the idea out there that they can care about you and love their other parent at the same time. Acknowledge that you know that their relationship with their biological parent will always be special and different to anything else. Let them know you would like to try to have a relationship that is good for both you and the child, and that you’ll follow their lead as to what that looks like.

  4. When your stepchild is ready, work on creating a new relationship.

    Don’t try to replicate the relationship your child has with their biological parent. This runs the risk of inflaming the loyalty bind but it also takes away the opportunity for you to create something new. You have qualities, wisdom and experience that will be different to those of the other adults in the child’s life. It may take a while for your stepchild to appreciate that, but be patient. Find new things to share that are different to what the child has with his or her biological parent.

  5. Decide on what’s important. And let the rest go.

    There will be plenty to argue about. The fact that a stepfamily is in the making means that nobody’s story has ended the way they thought it would. Nobody goes into marriage anticipating divorce and children don’t look forward to the day their parents live in separate houses. There’s a lot going on – broken hearts, endings and angry people. People won’t always be on their best behaviour.

    Decide on the things that are important to you and let the rest go. Push gently for the change that needs to happen but at the same time, respect the rest of the family’s need for stability.

    The balance will get precarious at times but it’s an important part of getting to where you need to be. You won’t be able to function as a new family until differences are worked through and people have enough of what they need to not feel compromised. Without a doubt, your new family can be phenomenal but it will take time.

  6. Appreciate the small stuff.

    Understand that it may be difficult for your stepchild to accept you or show affection for so many reasons, none of which will have anything to do with how they feel about you. The upheaval, their own grief, and loyalty binds all make for shaky ground. Appreciate the small moments of contact. It’s easy to overlook them but when they happen, know that it’s big.

  7. Respect that it will take time.

    In her extensive work, Papernow has found that stepfamilies take about 7-12 years to adjust and to exist as a healthy, well-functioning system. Quicker families might do it in four but some families never really get there. I wonder how much of the time frame has to do with the stepchildren reaching independence and establishing a relationship with their step-parents as adults, rather than children.

  8. Be open to letting go.

    Be open to the possibility that you may never be close to all or any of your stepchildren. One may have less need for another adult in their lives or may feel the conflict of a loyalty bind more than the others. You might also just be too different from each other to make it work. The most important thing is that when they are younger, you are committed to making it work, but that doesn’t mean it will work out as planned. There is enormous grace and courage in being able to let go, which is different to giving up.

All stepfamilies are different but they share common vulnerabilities. They can be as rich, warm, loving and wonderful as any other family. No family is smooth sailing all the time but the dynamics of a stepfamily present challenges at the start that are unique. Within that is the potential to rise to the challenge and come out with something extraordinary.



I am almost 50, no children of my own and have been with my girlfriend for close to 2 years now. She has a son from her previous marriage. He just turned 4. She was with her ex for almost 20 years and then he started cheating on her soon as she got pregnant.

He was here with the kid for not even a year before he moved across the country (to pursue the mistress). Unfortunately, my girlfriend and him are still going through a divorce. It goes without saying that he is a narcissistic piece of trash! Up until recently, he would blow in for a day or 2 every 6-8 weeks.

Recently as of 4-5 months ago, he got an apartment out here and now comes about once a month. (He rents the apartment on Air B and B the other time, despite not having a license to do so in this state and it being against his lease – real winner this guy). Meanwhile, I am here everyday, (though I technically do not live here and still have a place of my own, most of my days and nights are spent here with the 2 of them) helping raise the child, being his parental figure (though let me be clear saying mom does much more and is a god to kiddo, understandably) and play friend. Still, he is constantly saying he doesn’t want me and wants mom (not always, but it wears on someone to hear that, even when you know it is not really true most of the time.

Yesterday was the kiddo’s birthday party at an indoor trampoline park. Super dad showed up and helicoptered over the child all day, dominating his time and not allowing me to have any. I was very hurt by this, especially since kiddo thinks he is great (how couldn’t you when you only see him once a month or so) and is far too young to see what a complete a-hole his father really is. Anyways, I sulked around the afternoon while there since I was so upset and hurt by being a nobody to the kid. I wish I had gone about it differently but now in the cold light of the next day, while the child stays with super dad this week, my relationship seems to have crumbled. While my girlfriend can understand what I am feeling (kinda) she feels responsible for it and that is tearing us apart. Plus, she HAS to deal with asshole and of course only wants what is best for the kid. Especially since he is far too young to understand what trash his biological father truly is. I go out of my way to be everything I can for the kid and he idolizes this other piece of s___ simply because he has the name “daddy”.

I very much don’t want to lose her or kiddo in my life, but I also know this is so very hard to deal with and I fear it will only get worse. The heartbreak is real and I am not sure how to weather it. Though she has said it has to end and it is best to break up now, I am having a really hard time accepting this and walking away and I have not even left the house yet. I changed my entire opinion on having a child and gave my heart and soul into being a good dad, which I am and now after almost 2 years I am supposed to just walk away and forget about it all? I am at a real loss of what to do here and could use some words of wisdom if you have any.


I’m 21 years old turning 22 years old this year and my partner is 75 years old and he has two kids one the daughter is 35 years and the son is 16 years old the daughter has a partner to she is not married has two kids and she has a problem with me I recently changed my Facebook surname and she told me I should not change it ,it is fraud I should remove it and that hurt me a lot I guess she has not yet accepted me the son is very kind he doesn’t really care what can I do

Wilhem S

It’s also very much luck of the draw, just like with a biological child. They argue and fight in different ways, saying you are not their “real” parent, they probably have some psychological problems because of the separation of their parents, and the other parent can also “put you in your place” because they perceive you can’t parent like they can.
Being a step-parent is probably the hardest parent type to be, since you weren’t there in the beginning, and everyone in some manner is somewhat against in at times. The truth is you either need to go all in and love unconditionally, expect little to no gratitude, tell yourself you are helping bring a responsible adult into the world, or you should always just make yourself the second string player and let the bio parent make all the rules and run the show, no matter how good or bad they are at it, because at the end of the day you will get little to no satisfaction or joy from them. It is a very unrecognized role, no matter which gender.
I wish every step parent good luck and the ability to be strong because it will be adversarial in most cases for most of the childhood left.
Personally, I felt I gave it my all and they turned out ok, but in retrospect I would never have gone down that path, I should have stayed in the corner and just let them be because the scars will never heal and there is nowhere to go for the anger and annoyance and bitterness they created.


This is how I feel. I did what I could to help out with a broken teen and I regret it. It is now done and she moved away to a college town and I am happy to have my home back. It was extremely disruptive to have someone here not helping out with anything .. she left her room as disgusting as you can imagine and never flushed either. It was so gross. Glad it is done, I wish I had not been part of it the last three years. But now she is off and away. I am making plans for the space to use it on some fun way.

Appreciate your comment 🙂


I am in the same boat as you. I put in so much. Their other bio parent was basically non-existent for many years and I never thought I was that role but when they finally realized their kids were becoming distant they suddenly started paying attention and their kids suddenly started treating me so differently. It has been so hard the past year and a bit and I wish so much that I hadn’t cared as much as I did because it hurts so much. And it’s so hard to just accept that you aren’t very important. Because you made these kids feel like they were the most important. And it’s like they need to make sure you don’t feel important so their bio parent can see that they aren’t replacing them.
The same as you, I wish I had played second fiddle this whole time. Part of me wishes I had never been part of this relationship from the beginning.

Alyssa C

I am currently in a relationship and my partner has two children. One 6 yrs old and one 3 yrs old. We have been together almost a year but the father is in the picture very much so they spend 5 days with her and 5 days with him. As of recently things have shifted and she’s had the kids more full time. I don’t have any children and it’s been an adjustment doing what I can and being supportive and spending time w the kids when I can. I do however feel drained after about 3 days spending w them and I feel guilty about it. Now that things are shifting and she’s more full time it scares me knowing that this could be permanent. I feel selfish thinking that I will be pushed aside in the relationship, not appreciated for what I do/ or will have to do in the future to hold up my end. I never really wanted kids, but I do love her and the children and want to do my best to make this work. But it also feels like I’m selling myself short and just trying to make it work bc i feel like it’s the right thing to do. I’m so confused and hurting myself in the process w guilt and self criticism. I don’t want to walk away and feel the same or feel like I should of tried harder. They are young but I feel like they have established ways of doing things already. Not to mention the father isn’t the greatest person. Any advice?

Second Fiddle

I am 50 and I’ve been with my wife now for almost seven years. I love her dearly and first and foremost, which is what I always read a marriage should be: you & your spouse come first, your love for each other comes first, you make time for each other (including intimacy) and then some. I understand that when you are the “step-parent”–which I am–you enter a different situation: your spouse (the biological parent) is focused primarily on the kids’ well-being. This makes perfect sense to me and I totally get that the kids should be a priority. However, I am deeply concerned that once the kids are both graduated from high school in five years, the promise that she made to me when I verbalized what I wanted at the beginning of our relationship will be broken because she grips so tightly to the kids. While I’m not faulting her for wanting closeness with them, I just feel like our marriage will never be the priority. I don’t want to be in a relationship where the kids even as adults are an everyday part of our lives. I want time for us, intimacy for us, and for the kids to have their own lives apart from us. It doesn’t mean I don’t want the kids to ever be important or a part of our concerns or lives. But it does mean I want us to pursue our joys and interests together as a couple at some point. I just feel like I’m here sometimes to carry the financial burden and tend to the kids and that’s really it. I hate to say it, but I would never have gotten involved in the relationship if I felt this would be the direction that, more and more, it seems to be heading.


Loved reading this! Unfortunately I have to curb my angst at the thought of passing it on to my Son’s Mum and new Partner as something that could potentially solve the majority of issues. The one thing that is present in the first passage is a clear, ‘it is what is best for the child/children’. I believe that if all parties involved do this; what is best for the child/children, the probability of success is almost certain. I needed this for reassurance that my Fatherly instincts are genuine and true and to keep moving forward against no matter the vengeful resistance. Parents and Step Parents please enlighten yourselves. See the child and listen to them. Do your best for the kids.

Samantha D

I’ve been with my partner for nearly five years now. He has four children, his youngest is 12 and stays with us on weekends and holidays. Her parents are both in their late forties. It feels like they’ve given up on her. She’s constantly on her phone from morning to night, in her room. It breaks my heart as she is a very bright sweet girl but she has no manners, eats with her fingers still, just has to moan if she doesn’t want to do anything and she doesn’t have to do it. I try to talk to my partner but all I get is “she’s a child”. Yes, a child that needs guidance and boundaries and general life skills. It makes everything so difficult, we don’t go out or do anything when she is here, once in a blue moon maybe. I really don’t know how to approach this matter anymore in fear of feeling like an ogre stepmum. Some advice would be amazing. I think she is very depressed too. Thanks in advance.


After 2 years my partner and I have been seeing each other predominantly when we haven’t got our own children with us. We both have 2 children, mine being older {9 and 11) whereas hers are are 6 and 8. Her eldest is hard work and as I contemplate combining families, as this what my partner wants after 2 years of seeing each other, I’m am really worried about the impact on my 2 much quieter and calm children.
I wish I can talk through the issues I’m having to face, with someone who has done this. I miss her so much (start started having a break while I have a ‘think’ about what to do) but my kids wishes after I explain to them what I’d like to do (to give the moving in thing a trial go) , must take priority I think. I don’t even know if I’ll get anywhere on here, but reading the comments above it seems there are people in similar dilemas. Please reply if u can help me..


Well I’m that mom who was a teen mom, married her childhood boyfriend stayed married for 12 years, had 2 children with him, one out of wed who ended up divorced and now married to a woman! Where do you go now when you feel that you and your wife have tried everything to build a relationship with my 15 yr old son? Any advice?

Jackie J

So I need some insight. I am in a relationship with a man. We have talked about getting married and long term etc. I have a toddler and she goes to her father’s every other weekend and 2 nights a week. My daughter is very comfortable around him, even calls him daddy. She asked her grandparents (her father’s dad and stepmom) if she could. She never asked me. They relayed this to me that let her know as long as she wants to basically go head. Now the father has an issue with it and drills it into her head not to call him dad. Sometimes my daughter comes into bed and cuddles, she doesn’t sleep with us unless we have to (on a trip that has one bed, happened twice). He loves her like his own and takes care of her as such and my daughter’s father knows I am happy and my daughter is too. It just seems like he’s trying to find something to make an issue.


I think the hardest thing is loving them and having such an amazing relationship with the child. But not really getting to talk to them much when they aren’t with us. It makes me very sad but my boyfriend I don’t think can understand that or the feelings.

Rachel I

I’ve been with my wife now for 4 years and she has a child who is 6. He lives with us full time and we have the added pressure of it being a new gay relationship but honestly, I have always kind of followed her lead and tried to do what she wants. She feels like I’m too harsh sometimes but I’m just doing what I was taught. When I back off she gets upset that I’m not helping and I feel so stuck. We try to talk all the time and just get upset with each other. I’m so scared I’m going to lose them both and I love my boy like he is mine. It’s horrible


I wish parents who re-marry with children/child could appreciate how difficult it is for the childless partner. Coming into a relationship there are so many feelings, obviously lots of talking about the ex, and just the stress of wanting to do good and running myself out trying… I wish he’d see all I’ve put in. I don’t think he ever will, because how can you imagine yourself in another person’s shoes who doesn’t have a child when you do? I’m exhausted.


I totally understand you. I feel the same way. It’s actually more complicated for us in my opinion. Sometimes I want to let it all out but I just hold on to everything I’m feeling.


I went through the same. Simple (not easy) answer: Stop trying so hard. Seriously. It’s ok. They may think you don’t care, so feel free to explain that you do care, deeply, but you can’t fix what someone else broke… they have to fix that. If you have an opinion that you can state with a neutral tone and then leave it, state your opinion… then leave it. If it helps, make your own money. It may give you more of a feeling on control. Use his $ on the kids, and your on whatever you think most important (savings, self-care, a housekeeper, trips with your family or closest friends). But let everyone (esp teen SC) see that you have healthy boundaries and tons of self-respect. That you are not a babysitter or a maid. That what you do, you do because it works as much for you as it does for them. Don’t be the go-between or the peacemaker… but don’t stir the pot, either. Be caring, but neutral. And take very good care of yourself. Take a night class or form a walking group on your neighborhood. Make it clear to your husband what YOU want your roll to be and let HIM figure out the rest. This is hard and he may think it unfair, but be clear that you did not marry him to take over the duties of a housekeeper/nanny… which is what you feel


I’m in the same situation now. I’m just got married into a relationship with two adult children on her side and I’m childless. I’m trying to figure out my place and am struggling. It’s always ‘my kids’, but our family. How does this even work out?! 😩


This is exactly how I feel after 7 years of trying my utmost to give the two boys a happy stable and loving home. All we ask is that at ages 16 & 15 they follow the rules, respect us and be honest.
I take them to their district sports and attend as many of their school events as possible as their mother lives 2.5hrs away and is often unable to attend.
I cop the brunt of their anger, tantrums & screaming etc and for the most part I remain calm but it still seems that it is never good enough.
My realtionship with their father is great, he is a very kind man, helpful honest & fair.
Totally at a loss as to what we can do to help the kids adjust, it seems everything we so is wrong and it is very stressful


I hear you 100%. I am a step dad of 2 SD’s (From 2 different BD’s…)…. Blew up like a nuclear bomb. Zero respect. Zero appreciation. 100% abuse and extraction of resources


So true!! we are definitely underrated and under appreciated. i wish i could transfer all the pain and anguish i have felt to my now fiancé. he has no idea how hard it is to deal with him and his relationship with his baby mom. its not even the child.

sonja p

I married my husband 4 years ago and he has been the sole carer of his talented 17-year-old since his son was 2 .. The boy won a scholarship to a prestigious private school because of his music skills and my husband moved to the South west of the UK to support him. I though someone who does that for his child can’t be all bad 🙂
Since joining the family I introduced family sit-down meals, Sunday brunches, do the washing and most of the housework and generally help put. My stepson has been very respectful and courteous towards me but he seems to want more and more from me. He always talks directly to me at mealtimes, not to his father, tells me a million things a day and is always interrupting us. We are now in lockdown and although this has been slightly eased, he never goes anywhere, never sees friends outside, never goes to the shops or for a walk. It’s driving me crazy. We live in a small house and I have to leave when he is practising or having online music lessons as it is too loud. I have two grown-up daughters and I never saw as much of them since they were about 14. They were always out and about. He doesn’t even talk to his friends on Skype. Unfortunately his mother, who lived in London, passed away 6 months ago but he only ever went on exotic holidays with her. My husband is super-protective of any criticism I have of him and also worries endlessly if he as much as goes on a bike ride (once in 12 weeks of lockdown). This closeness may be many stepparents’ dream but I’m freaking out. I can’t get away from him and his music. I have suggested my husband take him out for an afternoon at the weekend so I can be by myself but to no avail. We have no time alone together. I am a writer. Am I a bitch or an evil stepmother?I haven’t felt this way since my daughters were tiny. I need space but I also don’t want to be continually on the run from my own home. Does anyone else have the problem of their stepchildren wanting too much from them?

Jeff a

I am step parent of three kids from two different dads from no fault of my wife’s other than trying to make a good life for herself and create a family which she has found with me. You are not a bad person. Being a bad step parent for feeling how you feel. We feel this often. Whether you’re a step parent or not, having space to yourself is rare. Although, you son perminantly losing his mom is significant. Just realize you’re in a season in your life than will eventually blow over and your step son needs you. Whether you see than or not. My step kids have emotional challenges that they themselves don’t even realize. You’ll get through it through love and understanding.


Wow very well said, this is happening to me as well… my step-son is very close to his father and didn’t really have a bonding relationship with his mom, even though he lives with her half the time… I think he wants my attention 100% of the time because he doesn’t have the connection with his mom or another female figure

Kiran C

I have been married for a little over a year to my husband. We both have 2 children from previous relationships and just recently had a child of our own; so 5 children total. Combining our blended family has been a constant struggle for us mainly because our children have been very “annoyed” “intolerant” and have a habit seeing how the others do things differently as a bad or “wrong” way to be. This turns into feelings of resentment, anger and unacceptance from his children towards mine or vice versa. Most recently, his 17 year old daughter and I had butted heads over how I approach her about things I see as disrespectful. She says I always approach her in an “aggressive” and “snotty” manner. I agreed that I need to approach her in a less aggressive way and told her I would do so next time something comes up. However, I feel she is looking for ways to come in between my husband and I and is very unaccepting of me. My husband wants me to have a heart to heart talk with her today in order to try setting aside some differences or misunderstandings. One thing I’m going to approach her on is why she is suspicious I am cheating on her father. I have never cheated on him before and I am not now. However, I left my phone at home one day and left for work; I receive spam phone calls almost daily however when she saw what looked like a local number calling my phone, she took a picture of it and sent it to her father and asked if he recognized who’s number this was and that maybe I was doing something behind his back. I feel she was completely out of line and want to understand what possessed her to even look at the phone to see who was calling in the first place. Keep in mind, I have been quite stressed out lately and it has shown in how I act around my house. The kids see me unhappy, their father unhappy and I when my own children are not in our home (I have 50/50 custody), I tend to hideaway in my room with our newborn baby lately just to avoid annoying my step children and allowing them to feel comfortable in our (and their) home. We have a lot of things to discuss however, how do I approach her about her actions and accusations regarding my faithfulness to her father?

De la Rose

I honestly can not imagine your pain. It’s not right to feel so uncomfortable in your own home. Teenage daughter’s are a very slippery slope ( girls in general will always be daddy’s girl’s)
However she is teenager and let’s face it majority of teenagers are A-holes
That being said it’s ok to feel uncomfortable by what this child did invading your privacy when you are the wife to her father and the the mother to her new sibling.
I would simply tell her respect is earned. I have nothing to hide from your father and I have earned his respect. I would never violate your belongs as you have done to me. You are a young woman and you behaved as a child.
I’m not trying to replace your mom and in-spite of what you might think I care about you and want us all to live peacefully I know it’s not easy believe me it’s a difficult thing for all of us. Let’s try taking baby steps and figure out our relationship.
Sounds corney but letting her vent to say her piece might help her it might also be an incredibly hard thing to hear but it will be a turning point in your relationship with each other. I wish you luck I’m sending you prayers and good thoughts. It will be ok because it always is… good luck!


I have an 11 year old son from a previous relationship and my partner of 4 years has a 20 year old son of her own. We were married in February of this year as her father is terminally ill. We have been living apart for the last 12 months as she has been his full time carer for the past 12 months. My partner and I have always clashed because of my parenting style. I’m a little too casual for her and she believes I treat my son more like a mate and allow him to control the house and me. This is true to some extent and has possibly evolved primarily from the little time I spend with him and that when I tried to get more access my ex manipulated him to the point that he didn’t want to come see me. My partner is a strict disciplinarian who demands boundaries and punishment for my child when he does wrong. Anyway, in the last few weekends we have been able to spend some time together and the weekend just gone my son was with me. She made several mentions over the weekend of certain aspects of my parenting within earshot and at some points in the company of my son. At dinner my son was creating a scene because he was apparently full however, as I always do, I made him finish. My partner then accuses me of making her out to be the bitch because I only did it to appease her. I feel like I’m in a no win situation. This issue has driven such a wedge that I can’t see a way for our relationship to work


I would love a little advice. Dan and I have been together for about 61/2 years. When we met his son was 3 So he’s 9 now. I felt like his ex and I really had a pretty good relationship going until just recently. Good as in my parents have taken the boy on a few trips we always get to see him in holidays when my parents are around even if it’s “not” our year. Now I’m 3 rd grade he is struggling a lot in school At night when he comes home he cry’s when he doesn’t understand so his teacher said he needs to be medicated Of course the mom who is a pill and procedure freak found a guy despite the fathers best efforts to medicate him. We set an appointment with the same Dr for the 4 parents to go and talk with this guy and have a serious conversation about our conserves and she pulls her son out of school to bring him to the meeting. Using him as a pawn so things can’t get to real. Then about 15 minutes into it she looks at the dr and the dr reassured her. She tells me this is non of my business that he’s her son and I’m not family anyway I’m going to medicate my kid and there is nothing dan can do about it. And you won’t change my mind. So we left. Son in the room crying Now what


Can I ask a question? My husband and I have been divorced for 7yrs. We share a 9 year old son. He remarried 2 years ago and had another child who is 9 mos old. Since having the new child, he new wife and baby have taken several vacations together. I can’t help but feel bad for my son that he is being excluded. I am doing my best to shield him from knowing about these vacations, but at times he knows because dad insists on face timing or knows because of having schedule being rearranged. He has asked me why he isn’t going and I say I’m not sure that he has to ask his dad. Which he doesn’t not. I feel like he is going to harbor those feeling and may start to resent his half sibling. I have tried to express my concern to my ex-husband, but he doesn’t see the harm. Says he is fine. Am I wrong to think that they should include all children on family trip?

Kimme P

Wow. If all this doesn’t hit home!

First coming to the realization that I am a stepmom for life. I too was living in the fantasy that everything would be peace and love. I do not have any children of my own and was hoping that my stepdaughter would openly accept me. That was a huge let down. I’m not going to lie. The rejection has caused a lot of strain on my husband’s and I relationship. Plus we have very different ideas about parenting. This too has caused a lot of stress. So I eventually gave up. Not mentioning a word in fear that it would cause an argument.

Unfortunately my stepdaughter has been recently diagnosed with an eating disorder. Of which I noticed immediately sometime back. Anytime I suggested treatments I felt she needed I was met with instant dismissal. However I did push on about it. Which again, has caused much stress between us. She has been hospitalized and now both parents are finally agreeing on a treatment program. It has been so frustrating to watch her suffer. Know what she needs. And to be constantly met with dismissal from her father, my husband.

I’m extremely relieved that she is finally getting the help she needs. But have lost a lot of respect for my husband in the meantime. I feel I am not respected in this part of our relationship. Again, it is very frustrating to watch the same behaviors. I understand the letting go part. But it’s just not easy.


I have two step-sons that live with me and my wife. One is 22 and the other is 20 and also her nephew, who is 23. I work 60 plus hours weekly and come home to a nasty house and they keep their rooms clean. The nephew works and doesn’t give my wife no money for staying and wen I bring it up, it’s an argument. He can buy beer and go clubbing every week but can’t chip $5 or $10 on anything. The youngest son doesn’t work and sits at home playing video games all day. Same results when I speak on it. The oldest son works and pays $200 a month but doesn’t clean up, leaves clothes around and isn’t saving money to move and doesn’t plan on it. I’m on the edge of kicking everyone out which will be a big issue or moving out myself. I can’t continue living like this.


Hi this is Michelle..I have a partner 43 years old and I’m 20 years old. He have a only one daughter 16 years old. When My step daughter was 8 years old ,her mum and dad separate because her mum is horrible, I don’t wanna say this in this way but it is what it it. . Since her mum and dad separate , her dad looking after to her for 9 years now. And I meet my partner for 2 years from now.. we’re having argument because of his daughters behaviour .His daughter is ungrateful, silently rude, and don’t have gratitude for all what I did for her , the fact that I’m looking after her rabbits and she earns money because of the rabbits but everything what I did for her is doesn’t mean anything to her. She ignores me all the time . We never talk about us. We just always talk about the rabbits coz he’s giving me instructions what to do for the baby rabbits. And I cooked a dinner every night. But she never appreciate it. And now I feel like my relationship to her dad is destroying because of his daughter’s behaviour. We always have argument about his daughter. Because his daughter is not even listening to his father Everytime her father talk to her. And we’re not even allowed to be affectionate if her daughter is there. Even holding hands are not allowed. And we can’t even go for night out because my partner doesn’t want to leave his daughter home even for a while. And we’re just having time if his daughter is at school that’s it. In this situation I don’t really know what to do .. coz sometimes I feel like an second option coz I know his priority is his daughter ? and it’s just hurts me because I feel like I’m not enough even though he always told me I’m enough for him.. and sometimes I feel like a maid in this house than a girlfriend or partner , we don’t even have a nice time because he’s always busy work in his farm that’s what he always do when his days off coz he’s a pilot ,and he told me he wants me to go with him when he’s doing some jobs in the farm so we can spend time together, but that’s not the kind of time that I wanted that spend time in the farm with all the jobs when his day offs.. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to tell him that I’m hurt of everything but I love him that’s why I’m still here . . I will be so glad to hear you back to answer . Thank you.


My husband and I have a 3 yr old a be oy nd we will soon be getting custody of his 12yr boy and 6 yr girl because their mother passed away…I have mixed emotions more about how my son will be affected being the only one and now having to share his parents, also how the kids will be treated differently from myself because mine is mine and the others I have little to no say…they were raised different than what my husband and I will raise them…also my husband never was part of their lives and will now want to make up for it will my son be forgotten about…that’s silly but he may feel that way…I am just lost with emotions and thoughts

Wendy H

I think this will enlarge your sons circle. These are his siblings. As a mother of an only child, he will crave this as he gets older most likely. We have an unlimited supply of love. I doubt your husband will forget his third child, but I do believe there will be growing pains.With their mother gone, they will probably need a different love from you than most step children. Give it all time and be willing to rethink your plan as needed.


Thank you for writing about this topic both realistically and positively. There is so much online about how the step-parent must adjust in reaction to the feelings and needs of the children if they are to ‘fit in’; very little about the realities of all parties adjusting.


I’ve be with my for 8 years, we just recently got married (month ago)
For the most part I do get along with my 2 stepdaughters (15 and 13) . Last night their mom worked nights,till 11pm
I have my daughter for the weekend and cooked us a nice supper. I didnt ask or offer my stepdaughters if they wanted supper. I know it isnt fair but keep in mind they hardly listen to their mom and gives her attitude , I completely stay out and never ever have said a word to them about any behavior. Also they dont do anything around the house to help out….NOTHING at all.
So my wife is angry at me for not offering them any dinner. I realise it was wrong of me but at the same time they’re well old enough to make a simple meal….they eat around normal dinner time and I didn’t get home and cook supper til 630pm. Started eating at 730. Also, my wife spent the morning baking goods for her co workers. Shouldn’t she have given supper for her daughters thought and prepared something ahead of time for them?
Am I really in the wrong here?


I have 2 children son aged 6 & daughter aged 9 and my partner has two boys 11 & 12. We have been together for 6 years both of our marriages ended before we were together as a result of our ex’s having an affair (not together)
Our relationships was like a fairytale our kids all get on so well we were truly blessed! Then we moved in together 6 months ago and gradually it’s all falling a part and I’m not sure what to do?!
We have my step boys every other weekend, I look after them as my partner is at work, we have great fun all the kids together!
However when I ask my partner to help pick up my kids from school on his day off or drop or pick them up from a friends he simply says no! He says he feels guilty if he does this for my kids cause he doesn’t do it for his but his boys don’t mind as there mother’s nee hisbaydoes things for them so they say they kind of expect their dad to be helping with my kids. It’s really hurt me that he won’t help me at all and would rather see me rushing around cooking the dinner dropping kids off picking them back up
And he just watches the telly like he hasn’t a care in the world!!

I need help what should I do ? Tell him to step up or move out ?

jene l

I wish I knew what to do. I am an adult stepdaughter, the reason mytepmother giver me for my father not spening time with me, even now as an adult is, “he never spends time with any of his children. If there is hurt feelings and I try to address it, she and my step family downplays it.. Now published my book, she shared my link, but didn’t put anything like “heres my stepdaughters book or heres Jene’s book. But instead she just shared the link..
When my stepsister published her book, oddly enough 2 weeks after I did, she announced her daughter published a book. I am hurt and this is something that is constantly happening. Should I ignore like always or cut that family out.. I am tired and this is the last straw.


Thank you for your article! I wish I had read it before. I have been remarried for 3 years. I have two children, who at the time of marriage were 14 (girl) and 17 (boy). My previous wife passed away. My current wife has two children as well. At the time of marriage they were 14 (boy) and 10 (girl). My wife let go of the fantasy way before I did. I let go but I still struggle because most things feel like they keep going backwards. I realize this is because of the fantasy itself as described in your article. I’m used to a close family and sometimes I wonder what is the point to having this “new” family if we can’t be close. I love my wife and my kids love her too. Obviously its not the same as there bio mom but they genuinely love her. My wife’s children are completely the opposite of my own and so is my wife’s parenting style. I’m stricter with my kids such as making sure they make their bed, do there homework, are respectful, etc., than she is with her own. I get frustrated because her kids don’t have the same expectations placed on them, or if they do its not enforced. I try not to say anything but eventually I blow up after seeing them get by with so much. I like them and they are not bad kids but I feel they are being trained to be adults so they should have higher expectations placed on them so that they can be responsible adults. Most of our arguments arise when I get frustrated about mentioning these things to my wife and nothing changes. My wife recognizes some of what I say but she tells me that she is not good with discipline. My children see the unfairness as well. It feel like we are just way different people. I wanted us to be one united and caring family with everyone supporting each other (the fantasy). Things have gotten somewhat better over the years but there is a long way to go. My kids are in college and one of hers is as well. Her daughter still lives with us and drives me crazy because her priorities are so out of whack. My daughter and hers converse and seems like there is a relationship there but only her daughters terms. It feels like the realationships on my wife’s side are very one sided. We give them are all and they may give something back. It’s difficult to form a relationship with her daughter because she shuts herself in her room 24/7 for the most part. I want to have a relationship with her but when she is out and about I get so frustrated with her for her priorities being so far out of whack. I’m not sure what to do as I feel like giving up but your article is suggesting letting go which I have trouble with the true meaning of that. Do we live in the same house but do are own separate things such as I concentrate on my kids and she concentrates on her kids and we do are own separate things but occasionally coming together for things such as holidays? So most of the time is spent being away from each other so to speak?


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Separation anxiety can come with a tail whip - not only does it swipe at kids, but it will so often feel brutal for their important adults too.

If your child struggle to separate at school, or if bedtimes tougher than you’d like them to be, or if ‘goodbye’ often come with tears or pleas to stay, or the ‘fun’ from activities or play dates get lost in the anxiety of being away from you, I hear you.

There’s a really good reason for all of these, and none of them have anything to do with your parenting, or your child not being ‘brave enough’. Promise. And I have something for you. 

My 2 hour on-demand separation anxiety webinar is now available for purchase. 

This webinar is full of practical, powerful strategies and information to support your young person to feel safer, calmer, and braver when they are away from you. 

We’ll explore why separation anxiety happens and powerful strategies you can use straight away to support your child. Most importantly, you’ll be strengthening them in ways that serve them not just for now but for the rest of their lives.

Access to the recording will be available for 30 days from the date of purchase.

Link to shop in bio.
The more we treat anxiety as a problem, or as something to be avoided, the more we inadvertently turn them away from the safe, growthful, brave things that drive it. 

On the other hand, when we make space for anxiety, let it in, welcome it, be with it, the more we make way for them to recognise that anxiety isn’t something they need to avoid. They can feel anxious and do brave. 

As long as they are safe, let them know this. Let them see you believing them that this feels big, and believing in them, that they can handle the big. 

‘Yes this feels scary. Of course it does - you’re doing something important/ new/ hard. I know you can do this. How can I help you feel brave?’♥️
I’ve loved working with @sccrcentre over the last 10 years. They do profoundly important work with families - keeping connections, reducing clinflict, building relationships - and they do it so incredibly well. @sccrcentre thank you for everything you do, and for letting me be a part of it. I love what you do and what you stand for. Your work over the last decade has been life-changing for so many. I know the next decade will be even more so.♥️

In their words …
Posted @withregram • @sccrcentre Over the next fortnight, as we prepare to mark our 10th anniversary (28 March), we want to re-share the great partners we’ve worked with over the past decade. We start today with Karen Young of Hey Sigmund.

Back in 2021, when we were still struggling with covid and lockdowns, Karen spoke as part of our online conference on ‘Strengthening the relationship between you & your teen’. It was a great talk and I’m delighted that you can still listen to it via the link in the bio.

Karen also blogged about our work for the Hey Sigmund website in 2018. ‘How to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Children and Teens by Understanding Their Unique Brain Chemistry (by SCCR)’, which is still available to read - see link in bio.

#conflictresolution #conflict #families #family #mediation #earlyintervention #decade #anniversary #digital #scotland #scottish #cyrenians #psychology #relationships #children #teens #brain #brainchemistry #neuroscience
I often go into schools to talk to kids and teens about anxiety and big feelings. 

I always ask, ‘Who’s tried breathing through big feels and thinks it’s a load of rubbish?’ Most of them put their hand up. I put my hand up too, ‘Me too,’ I tell them, ‘I used to think the same as you. But now I know why it didn’t work, and what I needed to do to give me this powerful tool (and it’s so powerful!) that can calm anxiety, anger - all big feelings.’

The thing is though, all powertools need a little instruction and practice to use them well. Breathing is no different. Even though we’ve been breathing since we were born, we haven’t been strong breathing through big feelings. 

When the ‘feeling brain’ is upset, it drives short shallow breathing. This is instinctive. In the same ways we have to teach our bodies how to walk, ride a bike, talk, we also have to teach our brains how to breathe during big feelings. We do this by practising slow, strong breathing when we’re calm. 

We also have to make the ‘why’ clear. I talk about the ‘why’ for strong breathing in Hey Warrior, Dear You Love From Your Brain, and Ups and Downs. Our kids are hungry for the science, and they deserve the information that will make this all make sense. Breathing is like a lullaby for the amygdala - but only when it’s practised lots during calm.♥️
When it’s time to do brave, we can’t always be beside them, and we don’t need to be. What we can do is see them and help them feel us holding on, even in absence, while we also believe in their brave.♥️

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