Remarried Dad Having Trouble Connecting With Spouse’s Child

How can I have a better relationship with my stepchild? She resists my attempts at friendship and even screams, "You're not my dad! Leave me alone!" Have I done something wrong? How do I get past this barrier?

We’re hesitant to make definitive statements without knowing more about your situation, but we doubt that you’ve done anything special to trigger your stepdaughter’s negative response. There are many reasons a child might react so strongly to a new parent. Some of them could require counseling or professional intervention, but most can be effectively dealt with in the home.

It’s possible that the problem is rooted in unspoken signs and signals that your stepchild has observed in your relationship with your new spouse. If the biological parent fails to give the stepparent an explicit endorsement of authority, the child may feel that she has no reason to recognize the stepparent as a legitimate guardian with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with parenthood. Teenagers are particularly liable to pick up on this subtle messaging. If that’s the case in your family, your spouse needs to take the initiative by setting the ground rules for your stepdaughter and affirming your authority.

In other cases, it’s easy for an enthusiastic stepparent to come on too strong in expressing his or her excitement about the new family. This can be confusing – even threatening – to a child, triggering a nasty response. At such times, the stepparent needs to relax, step back, and let the relationship develop at the child’s pace. If you want to get past barrier, you’re going to have to find ways to operate at your stepdaughter’s comfort level. When you sense bitterness or resentment, don’t force the issue. Just make it clear that you’re ready to listen when she’s able to express her emotions in a respectful manner. As opportunities arise, give her a chance to speak her mind, but don’t allow her to be abusive. If the hurtful words persist, it may be time to seek help from an objective third party.

If you feel it might be helpful to pursue professional counseling, call us. Our Counseling department would be happy to provide you with referrals to programs of this nature or a list of qualified Christian counselors in your area who specialize in helping stepfamilies.

Whatever the dynamics of your particular case, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Every stepparent has to learn how to love and keep on loving with dogged determination, praying tirelessly and taking whatever action is necessary. If you’re persistent, we’re confident that your efforts will eventually bear fruit.


The Smart Step-Family: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family

The Good Dad: Becoming the Father You Were Meant to Be

Winning the Heart of Your Stepchild

Promise Keepers

National Center for Fathering

Smart Stepfamilies


Blended Families

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