Step Parenting Help

What does one do when one’s young step-children, who do not live in the newly established marital home, refuse to come see their biological parent because they “hate” the new step-parent(for no reason other than the fact that this person married their biological parent)? Bonding time is so necessary, and the more time they spend in the new environment with the new step-parent, the more they can see that s/he might actually be a decent person.

When visitation is granted by the courts – how far does one go to enforce it if the child really doesn’t want to come? If they are small enough does one just pick them up physically and carry them to the car kicking and screaming? At what point does the child get his/her own way?

How does one answer “I won’t come because I hate your spouse”? How does one stop this from causing pain, even though you know it isn’t personal?

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27 Comments

  1. Marinka says:

    This is so hard. I hope that there is professional assistance available. I don’t know if the child blames the stepparent for the break up of the parent’s marriage. How old is the young child?

    It sounds that the child is having an emotional tantrum, which may be developmentally appropriate, but shouldn’t dictate visitation.

  2. Mike Miller says:

    Do they get along with your kids, at least?

    It is hard, and it’s not personal, and there’s probably nothing you can do but wait it out… hopefully, they’re young enough that you won’t have to deal with normal teenage “I hate everyone” until this will work out.

    In my case, I was never verbally hostile to anyone [that I recall... one day someone will find this via Google and correct me...], and I suspect my stepfather just waited it out, although it took quite a while. It probably helped that I got along well with my stepsister.

    OTOH, if they rebel enough against their biological mother when they get a little older, maybe you might become appreciated and beloved as part of that . And mitoch shelo lishma, ba lishma…

  3. Adam says:

    I don’t know. (So why am I writing if I admit I don’t know?)

    My gut reaction is, it depends on the age. Teenagers, i.e. 13-18, I think it’s counter-productive to force a visit, even if the courts have granted it.

    Likewise, under age 9 or so, a kid is a kid and gets schlepped along wherever a parent/guardian says to go.

    9-13 is the tricky zone.

    Is the biological parent’s ex-spouse still living? Still caring for the children?

    The more a living, compotent ex-spouse is involved in his/her own children’s life, (perhaps) the less a step-parent should be; especially if the children are averse to having a step-parent.

    I think the best advice is the advice I try to give myself everyday:

    Be the best person you can be. Greet everyone with a smile on your face. When you see someone, think to yourself “What can I do to make his/her life better?”

    If we can succeed in implementing this mindet, everyone will absolutely love us! :o)

  4. Z says:

    If the kids are older, the bio parent HAS to step in and say “this is my choice, my spouse and you will respect my spouse.” I just add this because I know so many blended families where this doesn’t happen and the steps treat the stepparent like trash. Grrr…

    My stepdad is, as my therapist says, my psychological father. I think that’s a cool way to say it.

    I think visitation has to be enforced just like child support does. A lot of kids blame the stepparent for the bio family not “getting back together” and aren’t mature enough to really understand that won’t happen and blended families can be HAPPY families. A lot of adults do the same thing when a parent remarries. I agree…perhaps counseling can help but it’s still extremely hurtful.

  5. batya from NJ says:

    that is tough. i think that kids believe deep down that if they don’t cooperate with the new step-parent & make life difficult enough for their parent & step-parent, then maybe their biological parents might be get back together & everyone will live happily ever after. I have heard that children of divorce often harbor this unrealistic hope. However, that doesn’t really offer you any practical advice on how to handle this situation even if it may explain the underlying rationale for their irrational behavior. i wish you hatzlacha in dealing with this difficult situation. Also, it is possible that the children feel a loyalty to their mom & perhaps she may have overly or subtlely given them the message that they shouldn’t be nice to you b/c she may feel threatened by your potential relationship with her children…

  6. batya from NJ says:

    whoops, typo in previous email. i meant to say overtly not overly when i wrote about the messages the mom may be giving the kids.

  7. balebusta says:

    I would never “force” a child to come to the house/spend time etc…at least in the very beginning. They are going through a lot of emotions and psychological responses to the new arrangement…it is a hard thing to accept as a kid and certain ages are extra hard to process…oedipal age and adolescents…Bio parents need to have a calm and loving but firm conversation with kids…you don’t have to like step parent but you need to respect them…this was my choice, i love step parent very much (give reasons and nice qualities)…in time I hope that you will see what I see in step parent and maybe even come to like them…I know no one can replace your other bio parent…I imagine you are very angry and have some strong feelings about this…can you tell me how you’re feeling about this…etc etc most kids come around in time but it’s a hard transition, forcing a kid or getting into a power struggle with them is a recipe for disaster or at least more anger and resentment….just my humble 2 cents

  8. David says:

    OK. Pet peeve first. It’s not visitation. Visitation is when a non-custodial parent (i.e. one who has not right to make decisions on behalf of a child) spends time with a child as a relative might. The correct term is placement.

    In this case the child is being directly manipulative of the parent, using the parent-child bond as a means of controlling the parent. I’ve no sympathy for bratty teens here. He or she needs to go with the parent with whom he or she is supposed to have placement.

  9. Lady Lock and Load says:

    May I make a suggestion (don’t have step kids so afraid to open my mouth) but how about telling the kiddies “HEY KIDS, wanta come on sunday with us to the amusement park, movies, musium, etc?” This way the kids may want to come willingly and not make it into a battle.

  10. Mike Miller says:

    As a former step-kid [former kid, that is, not former step] I agree with Lady Lock and Load. It will be awkward, and they will resist [or complain] at first, but let them see you in a confrontational setting on a regular basis. Obviously, you have both a moral and (possibly) a halachic responsibility to _educate_ and _parent_ them, too, not to become their friend, but there’s a time and a place for everything.

  11. Chanief says:

    I’m not a step parent either, but I feel for you. I see the way my niece and nephew treat their stepmother sometimes and it makes me want to, at the very least, put them in a loooong time out. From an outside perspective, Lady Lock and Load’s suggestion seems like a great one. Invite them to do something exciting with you two for the next short while, something outside the home so they don’t need to see you “living” together. If it’s a situation where the child is supposed to come sleep over, maybe agree to a compromise such as going out together but then returning the child to the other parent’s home to sleep. I agree with balebusta in that forcing a power struggle is definitely a bad idea and will only serve to make the situation worse. Good luck!!

  12. shoshi says:

    Why would a biological parent want to force visitation under such circumstances?

    As long as there is no pressing need for them to come when they do not like to, I do not see why they should be forced to.

    However, I do not know what to advise if you are in the role of the mother and your ex wants you to enforce his visitation rights although the children do not want to come.

  13. shoshi says:

    I have a friend who resents it a lot that her father would never take time just for her, but force her to be with his new family.

  14. Jack says:

    Sometimes time is what it takes. You have to keep on plugging away and eventually they come around.

  15. harmless says:

    the more you push and force the more the child will resent both the step-parent and the biological parent. Neutral sites are good and it would be a good idea to see a therapist.

    I know an individual who only referred to the step-parent as “my mother’s husband”

    It is tough but one has to realize the psychological trauma a child goes through when there is a divorce.

  16. le7 says:

    I mean as long as te biological parent is making alone time for the child along with together time with the “new family”…

    I don’t know. I stopped visiting my father and his wife (OK I at least had a little bit of a right to be a brat since my father started dating her way before my parents got divorced…) partway through high school. I couldn’t deal with sitting in a smoke filled house just to watch TV a whole weekend.

    Also it doesn’t help that she’s very judgmental towards Judaism and whenever you try and explain something she says “Oh that’s weird. Oh that’s just stupid.”

  17. Z! says:

    I recommend allowing the step kids ‘alone time’ with bio parent. Don’t force yourself into the situation. They are young, and they will adapt. You will, G-d willing, be around for a long long time, bonding can happen over a long long time.
    Stop in for a half hour of that alone time together, then gradually make those periods longer and longer. Either be there at the very beginning- baking incredible snacks that maybe you could get them to help with, and then leave them for Bio parent and the kids to enjoy- alone. Go out shopping. Seem busy.

    The situation is horrible, and if you want for the kids to spend time with their bioparent, then YOU must make the effort to allow that to happen.

  18. shoshi says:

    That’s a very sound piece of advise, Z
    Thank you.

  19. shoshi says:

    …could also be that they feel their (second) home is now “taken over” by strangers, and there is no room left for them…

  20. tamaraeden says:

    I was going to echo some similar things. I am a step child and my father remarried when I was 5. We were like the Brady Bunch. My mom and dad had 3 boys and a girl, and my step mom had 3 girls.

    Whenever my SM would suggest something, like a hair cut, I’d get mad and say, “You’re not my mom”. I was too young to understand she wasn’t trying to be. I think not pushing your things on them is crucial. If they aren’t living there, then try to be flexible and mimic their mom’s rules. Do small nice things for them, but don’t try to buy their love. Encourage your husband to really really communicate with them about how great their mom is and how he also loves you. It will take time. Another thought is that when you do spend time, do it at a neutral location. Take them to a park, out for ice cream, even to a movie they want to see where you are in each other’s presence but the interaction is limited.

    Everything is slow, cautious, gentle steps.

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  22. Fern says:

    It’s very disappointing that the majority of the comments assume that the problem lays with the supposed bratty teen when it is the adults that tore apart his or her family then started a new family without regard to what was best for the children. Why shouldn’t the kid be angry that his parents divorced and get “do overs” and he or she is stuck paying the price for their decisions? Instead of calling the child a brat, who has no fault in the larger problem, why not have compassion for them that they now only get to see one of their parents part-time, and have to share that minimal time with their parent’s new spouse and kids.

  23. stepdad says:

    Maybe just maybe it is the step parent who is at fault. Trying too hard. Maybe the step parent intenitonally or unintenially trying to subvert the bio parent’s relationship with their child. Deal with it and go see a professional

  24. Lady Lock and Load says:

    Stepdad, I assure you this is not the case.

  25. Lion of Zion says:

    i don’t know how old the child in question is, but should you be posting about this?

    good luck in any case

    שבוע טוב

  26. Gave A Get says:

    Having lived through this from both sides, the best thing you can do is be open and honest with your kids.

    Telling them that there is no chance that you will get back together with their other parent is important so they hear it and don’t create hope where it does not exist.

    They want to spend time with their parents and the sooner they feel that the parent is being honest with them the safer they will feel.

    g.a.g

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