Step Parenting Question

This is a question that was emailed to me to pose on my blog. It has been edited to adjust flow.

“I am a newly remarried mother of an 8 year daughter. Her bio-dad has had nothing to do with her since we divorced 6 years ago. Her step dad has been in her life for two years and they have a lot of fun together. All three of us get along most of the time. However, my daughter will go crazy whenever my husband touches me in an affectionate manner, kiss on the cheek, arm around the shoulder etc. She hits him, kicks him in the leg and tells him to “get off my mommy!!” He has only ever been sweet and kind to both of us. What can I do? Why is she like this? She sits on his lap, she hugs him at bedtime. Why can he not touch me? If I am the one to initiate contact with him she says nothing and does nothing until he responds in kind. But you can see in her eyes that she is watching and waiting. I want us to be a normal family, but we are afraid to show affection in front of her.”

So, dear readers, you generally have wonderful insight and ideas – what do you make of this situation? What would you advise?

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  1. Frayda says:

    Take the girl to a shrink. She needs professional help.

  2. batya from NJ says:

    sometimes kids find it awkward when their biological parents are affectionate with each other as well. my kids for example, roll their eyes at us or my oldest will sometimes say, “go get a room”…i think it’s embarrasing for kids to see their parents being affectionate but then again i feel that it is important for them to see it. my own parents although they have been happily married for 40+ years, were never into PDA (public displays of affection) for tznius/modesty reasons but as a kid that bothered me so i guess u can never win as a parent! kids will either want u to be more affectionate or less-bottom line, parents can never win & don’t assume that your daughter is acting that way b/c he is a step-dad. it is possible that she would have felt similarly even if he were her bio dad. i think u should ask her why she doesn’t like when her step-dad is affectionate to u & see what she responds…perhaps family counseling will be helpful in order to alleviate some of your daughter’s concerns….

  3. Rebecca says:

    Could she be jealous? Does your husband have his own biological children? What does your husband say about her behavior to you personally and to your daughter when she exhibits this behavior? Has she had prob lems in school since your remarriage? If it continues, I would say that you go see a child psychologist and explain the situation and see what he/she suggests. I think, with children, going ahead of time gives the professional the insight prior to seeing the child. You and your husband might even go together so that the psychologist can hear about the situation from both sides.

  4. [...] of an 8 year daughter. Her bio-dad has had nothing to do with her since we divorced 6 years ago. Read More » Share and Enjoy:Tags: 6 years, blog, dad, parenting question, step parenting Source: Blogs, In the [...]

  5. Dov says:

    If the question-asker is very newly remarried, the first part of the answer is that you’ve got a long road ahead. In family blending and step-parenting, sometimes life’s a journey, where you think you know where you’re going but you have to enjoy it along the way too. And sometimes life’s a process, where there’s nothing to enjoy along the way but you have to keep plugging away until you get where you’re going.

    Off the cuff, here are some simple thoughts about the question:

    1. Your daughter has had you to herself for all of her remembered life. Odds are that you made it clear to her that you were devoted to her, and odds are that nothing in those six years has broken into the inner sanctum of your home with her. Now, all of a sudden, there’s this man in the picture, who she thinks she likes but at the same time is creating this weird new relationship with her mother. Regular life doesn’t threaten her, since she’s confident in her relationship with her mother, but intimacy is something she doesn’t understand but recognizes as a whole new ballgame that she’s not part of. So it scares her. The approach to this is to make it clear, both in words and deeds, that your new relationship with your husband doesn’t cut into your relationship with her, in fact, your private relationship with your husband is part of your husband’s being in the picture.

    2. Kids have a hard time separating their parents as parents from their parents as spouses. This is especially true in a blended family. You need to convey somehow that you are 100% her mom, and yet you’re also 100% your husband’s wife. You’re both. Just like she’s your daughter and also her teacher’s student. Or something like that.

    3. Don’t be afraid to show the affection. Being afraid is something she’ll pick up on, and it will empower her in a bad way. Keep up the calm affection regardless of her responses.

    Combining them all, I think you need to keep up basic affection (to the degree that’s appropriate in front of kids), and practice in advance a simple age-appropriate response if she blows up, like “don’t worry, I’m still your mommy and I still love you SOOOOO much, and having XXX love me as his wife doesn’t change my being your mom.” Then your husband can kick in with something like “I really like that your Mom loves you, and I would never want to change that, she can be your Mom and my wife at the same time, and we’ll all be SOOOOO happy.”

    Or something like that.

    Just understand that this is only the start of a long process of integration into a family unit. It’s a huge transition for your daughter and for you as well. If you think the challenge will end, sorry to say, it won’t. But it’s worth it!

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