Step parenting forum FAQs

Blended families are a huge adjustment for both parents and children. Dealing with different parenting styles and, in some cases a new home, can result in conflict. While the road to being one big happy family might not be easy, with a little help it can definitely be worth it. Our Step parenting support group it is a support community where users share their step-parenting experiences.

Take a look at the questions most frequently asked and how other step parents have dealt with and overcome them.

For more expert advice visit CyberShrink.

Q: Why am I jealous of my partner's kids?

Why do I feel this incredible insecurity, maybe even jealousy, towards my partner's kids? Dad is a full time dad to his 2 girls (12 and 16); he is their all, as mom is really not interested. I do lots for them, everything to help dad, financially and otherwise but just sometimes I wonder do they really appreciate it or am I just a convenience to them. They are extremely quiet and shy around me so I never really know what they are thinking. I have no doubt that he loves me he had a sit down with them a week ago, saying that I am here to stay and I do so much more for them, more than their own mother and they must appreciate me. What's wrong with me?

A: Look, they probably feel a bit threatened by you, the "other woman" in dad's life. And most teenagers won't show gratitude for the things you do for them, they're not wired that way. If you want gratitude you will have to wait till their mid twenties! Do what you do because you love their dad and them (?). Maybe spend some one on one time with them? Don't try to replace their mom, regardless of how badly she might treat them, the girls won't appreciate that. It's good that their dad is giving them the message that you are there to stay, they may not like it, but he has the right to a relationship.

Q: My boyfriend's son adores me, I'm afraid he'd be affected if we ever break up?

I've been dating this guy for about 6 months now and he has 5 yr old son. I've always loved kids and it's my first being in a relationship with some who lives with his kid.  To cut a long story short, the son adores me far too much and I'm afraid but I love playing a mother figure to him and I want to do everything for him.  The son does not know his biological mom and I spend most of my time with him. What if my boyfriend and I end up separating (not that we are having problems in the relationship), because I am sure it will affect the kid badly and I don't want that. Am I just being paranoid?

A: Been there, done that. At around the 6-month mark in our relationship I also started asking questions like you are doing now. It put a huge amount of pressure on me, I knew that for the little one's sake I either had to commit and get married, or get out. He wanted to get married, I wasn't sure. We did get married 7 months later and 5 years on it's all good! The best you can do I think is to talk this over with your partner and discuss the impact it will have on his son if your relationship does not work out. Perhaps you can agree that you will still be part of the boy's life (almost like a divorce situation) and gradually withdraw even if the relationship is over? It is a very difficult position to be in and in retrospect I think couples counselling might have helped us see things a bit more clearly.

Q: Does loving your stepchild come naturally or is it something that develops with time?

How do you learn to love your step child, does it come naturally or is it something that develops with time? I cannot feel any bond with the two children my hubby has from his previous relationship, and I may be facing the hard reality of them moving in with us permanently.  Currently they are staying with grandma, but since grandpa has passed away and grandma is sick these kids need to relocate to our house.  How do I deal with this?  If there is anyone who has encountered the same situation, please advise. The other part of me thinks that these children will be better off with their bio mom only if she had at least a small brain.  But she doesn't and she has shown quite clearly that she does not want anything to do with the children, sometimes I wonder why some people are given the blessing of giving birth!! She has not seen her children for more than five years and she does not seem to care any less. I have two children of my own with hubby and also feel that they also need their space, please help.

A: I've come to the conclusion that I'll never love my stepdaughter as my own child. I do admire people that are able to do so.But I love her like I do my nieces and nephews. And I really try to give her the best. I felt really guilty about the fact that I don't love her like my own. But since decided that I'm silly. The more the force the issue the less it will happen. Respect them as human beings, carry their best interest at heart, and the rest will come. If you get to love them like your own - wonderful. If you don't love them as your own, but still treat them with dignity, respect and fairness - also wonderful.

Q: My stepson doesn’t help around at home he never listens to me. What can I do?

My 15-year-old stepson does not want to do anything around the house. Every time he does something, he leaves it in his own way. I need to tell him every time to pick this up, tidy this up, do this and that. His dad has spoken to him about this, but he seems to carry on with this without listening. But strangely enough he listens to his dad when he asks him to do something. He seems to not show me any respect as the mother of the home. He doesn't see me as a mother, but just someone who is living with him and his dad. What must I do? I'm only 26 and I'm a housewife for now, I'm currently looking for work, as I moved from where I used to stay and work to be closer to them, but now I get treated in this way is definitely working on me every day. I do address this issue with his dad and he speaks to him, but he just won't listen.

A:  You're way too young to be this kid's mom, don't even try. You and your husband must sit down with the boy and discuss what he can reasonably be expected to do as his share of the housework, because he is a member of the family. Write it down and also negotiate and write down the consequences if he fails to do his bit. This can include losing pocket money, being grounded, losing tv privileges etc. The main messages though must be that in a family everybody pulls their weight, and he must respect you as his father's wife.

Q: I am struggling to develop a relationship with my stepson, any advice?

I have a twelve year old step son that I just can't seem to establish a relationship with.  He is rude and difficult, cheeky and sulky.  Nothing is ever right or good enough for him. He does nothing and his mother lets him get away with murder.  When I try and help, he tells me to butt out because I am not his father, he has a father and if he wants advice from a man he will go to his own father.  I was so shocked, I did not have a reply to this, I just didn't know what to say to him.   Please, your advice will be so welcome because I am at my wits end and thinking of leaving my wife because I just can't deal with this child. 

A: What I would do. First talk to the mother. Tell her that you know that it is not your child and if she wants to you will keep out of their relationship, then you will and she can take responsibility for his discipline on her own. However he needs to respect you and you also need to feel comfortable in your own house. So I would then set up a meeting with the 3 of you and she must then explain to him that this is the rules and he must respect his mother's husband. You will not butt in as long as it is not affecting you, but once it does you will.  And remember, adolescents (12 – 18) are hard work even for their own parents

Q: Is it just me or do stepmoms do everything, while the dad sits back and does nothing?

I sometimes feel in my own personal life, and from what I see on the step mom forum, I just can't help to think that majority of these problems lie with the father. It's like us stepmoms do everything while the dad just sits back? Am I the only one who is thinking this? This also goes to the moms that have problems with the bio moms - if the dads actually stood up to the ex, wouldn't things be better? What do you think?

A: I think that is a very valid thought. I once caught my husband lying to me and telling me a different story from what's really going on just because he wasn't listening to the bio-mom when she was talking. Since we've recently worked out this problem in counselling, he has manned-up and is taking a lot more responsibility. He also use to make my step kids my problem on a Saturday afternoon if he was watching rugby, but after I threw my toys and nicely told him where to get off, this too stopped and hasn't happened in about a year.

Q: Do you send your step kids clothes back clean or dirty?

After visiting their dad the kids are now back home. They had a fun time with their dad and I'm really happy about it. I need to ask though:  when you send your step kids back home, do you send their clothes back clean or dirty? I honestly don't have a problem if their clothes come back DIRTY. I'm their mom and as such I'm responsible for their clothes. But, my one son has a "bladder problem" at night. I deal with it as I can at home. The problem is, when they got back now most of their clothes were all just stuffed into a black bag in their suitcase, and the clothes were stinking of pee! And obviously it wasn't just ONE night's worth of clothing either. Am I really expecting too much to just rinse the clothes before sending them home? The washing wasn't even sorted into separate bags, but all the dirty clothes were in one bag. Honestly, if it were me I'd at least wash the clothes and send them back, even though they may still be wet. If the clothes come back like that, I can't help wondering how my boys are being treated. Would it be unfair of me to insist they buy and keep clothes for the boys with them instead?

A: I send the clothes back dirty in a bag, but obviously, if something like that happens, which has before, I will use my common sense to rinse the wet items out (just like you would wash the bed linen and make sure that mattress gets aired). Kids are kids and have oopsies every now and then. Speak to your ex husband, maybe they are literally not realising what they are doing.

Whenever my husband used to fetch my step-kids from school, he would just leave their school bags in the car until Sunday when they get home. That was until the bio-mom started complaining that she opens up lunch tins with mouldy sandwiches in them and asked if we can please wash the lunch tins in their bags. I nearly died of embarrassment because I didn't even realise it was happening. Now, I always ask for their lunch tins on a Friday evening and quickly do them with the dishes. Although I'm not their mom, I also have a bit of pride in me. When the step kids use to be in crèche and bought their nap-time blankets home over weekends, I use to wash and dry them and then send it back to the bio-mom for ironing because we drop the kids off five o'clock on a Sunday afternoon and she wouldn't have time to complete wash, dry and iron the nap-time blankets before crèche the next day. As much as I complain about her and I'm sure her about me, certain things you should just have the decency to do.

Q: Do you and your spouse ever argue about the step kids and the right way for them to be raised?

Do you and your spouse ever argue about the step kids and the right way for them to be raised? Basically opinions differ. My husband and I have been butting heads of late about the kids. I protect my kiddie who lives with us and stick up for him, not unreasonable though. My husband says my son, who is sick now, is playing me for the fool and is not really ill. He got antibiotics and he has flu. I flipped. I don't agree with the way his kid behaves when visiting us and he can't take the criticism. This is so difficult for me, we need to get around this, but I do not know how.

A: The disagreeing between parents over their step/bio children – would it no be best to go for family counselling before the situation gets totally out of hand and permanent damage is done? This whole step parenting thing is a minefield and I learn every day. But what I do know is that unless the parents stand together as a united front, the family is pretty much doomed to failure.

Q: The house I am living in with my husband is under a trust with his wife and children as the beneficiaries, my son and I have not been included as beneficiaries. How do I make this house a home?

My husband got divorced in 2004, I met him in 2005 and he'd just moved into a new home when I met him. He bought this home under a trust that he already had, which has his children from the previous marriage and the ex-wife as beneficiaries. He must be the biggest procrastinator of all because the beneficiaries of the trust are still unchanged, my son and I have not yet been included. How do you make such a house your home? I'm so uncomfortable. At his suggestion, he will change the beneficiaries to our son and me (the house was bought under a trust). But as I write this post, I realise how up in the air this topic still is. I'm starting to feel like he will later resent this decision as it means he will no longer have an investment for his kids. My concern is that I would like the house that I live in to really be my home in every sense of the word, without the extended family. So I'm thinking the option of buying our own history-free home is a much better alternative for everyone involved.

A: You are telling my story. "The house" became such a contentious issue and source of pain for me that I almost cancelled our wedding. I have the world's best and most loving husband BUT it was ''my house ... my house ... my son's house''. It was bad enough moving into another woman's home but not feeling like it was my home was the worst feeling for me. I did not feel at home, I did not feel like making it my home and I resented having to live here. It was NEVER about the house itself, it was never that I wanted the house - I think it was about trust and a demonstration of unity. My husband told me "I love you but I almost lost my house once before ... I need to protect it". Would have been far better had he slapped me. All that worked for me was time and swallowing a lot of hurt. I suggest that you perhaps do the following, and NO, it is not manipulative as you owe it to yourself and your son to be able to take care of yourselves should something happen to your husband. I suggest you start contacting brokers etc to find out about policies etc which you can have in place in the event of your husband's death. Do not hide this from him - this is what any intelligent woman would do because if he dies, you do not have a roof over your heads. When and if he questions you about this, the logical explanation is that you feel insecure and afraid of the future without him and you need to be carrying on with some semblance of a normal life if he is not there. Perhaps I am way out of line here and I apologise if this offends you. But all that I have said above is logical. If he is not going to provide a home for you and your son in the event of his death, it is your responsibility to do so. If he wants his house and if he wants to leave it to his ex, so be it. Put yourself in the position of NOT being helpless and dependant.

Q: My husband has asked me to add his children to my medical aid, is it my responsibility?

My husband is self employed so I'm the main member on our medical aid, he asked me to add his kids to my medical aid too, I didn't answer because I feel they are not my responsibility and why should I? He pays their maintenance and school fees and buy clothing and now and then groceries as well, now he expects me to pay for their medical, I don't think so.

A: That's a big ''NO'' darling and don't feel ashamed to let him know. What is the bio-mom good for? He's doing enough already. I have step-children and they are not in any of my official documents, only my child and that's it.

Q: How do I discipline my partner's child?

I have a daughter aged 4 and I have a partner that has a daughter aged 5. My little one lives with me. She is disciplined by me and she is a pretty good child all in all. Now my partner's child doesn't have discipline. Obviously these 2 little girls are brought up totally different.  I struggle when it comes to weekends when we have both children. She totally has no respect for my daughter, but she "listens" better to me than her father. She always grabs toys from my little one, has hurt her a couple of times, and is just plain ugly to her. She doesn't respect the home as well as animals. I have spoken to my partner and he is a lot better at controlling her now than before. But I can't help the things she does irritate me because I teach my daughter not to do those things, yet she does and can get away with it. She is a very bright girl for her age, very clever and very sly. VERY manipulative. So much so that he is obviously blind until I wake him up with a fight. The thing is how do I discipline her on the level I discipline my daughter. Obviously she is not my biological daughter but something in me stops me from doing what is right. I have no idea why. I actually get to the point that I think about it constantly when it's her weekend to come down that I get resentment in me (it even keeps me awake at night). And obviously what has happened in the past I feel guilty about because I basically let this little girl do these things to my little one. It makes me feel more resentment towards her. I just need someone to tell me that what I'm doing is right, that disciplining her is right. Deep down inside perhaps if don't want her to think I'm the mean one and that I'm targeting her. I just want to do what's right by both of them and I just need the strength to know that I can and will do it from now on.

A: I have just got a practical hint for you - not sure if it will help but it worked for me. Your daughter needs to have a cupboard or space for her own special possessions. Every child has those precious items which are of special value to her. Before the week end, those items which are special get put in her safe place and, NO NEGOTIATION, that area is off limits to anyone else. We had a big toy box for this purpose. It just eliminated conflict points until the relationships were sorted out.

Your step daughter also needs a storage space for her special items. This will show her that, while she is away from the house during the week, her property is being respected and cared for. Then, you have a big box or cupboard for communal toys, colouring in books, crayons etc. This way you establish boundaries regarding privacy. It's a start.

Your step daughter is probably feeling jealous and very insecure. The biggest tow mistakes I made as a step mom was (1) I took everything very personally and as a deliberate attack on my children and (2) I expected a child to behave think and rationalise as an adult. Your daughter has the one most precious ''possession'' your step daughter does not - she has the full time company of your partner. And at 5 that must be so incredibly difficult to handle. Plus she is moving from house to house over weekends and it is very upsetting and distressing for a little one. Make no mistake - no matter the age they learn to play you and manipulate you with the skill of an adult. The trick is to see it for what it is - jealousy, insecurity, hurt and feeling helpless.

I suggest that you encourage your partner to spend some alone time with his daughter - take her out for a milk shake, anywhere they are alone together and can sit and chat. Even walking somewhere quietly. This time alone can do wonders for a child's self esteem and sense of security.

Becoming step mom was a rude awakening for me. I had such a great relationship with my biological children that it never occurred to me I might struggle with any other child. Just don't give up, don't take her attitude and behaviour personally, empower your little girl to protect and speak up for herself against her step sister when necessary and above all NEVER, EVER, EVER FIGHT ABOUT THIS OR ARGUE ABOUT THIS IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN. That is a sure fire recipe for disaster. Talk about these issues when you are alone and above all else, maintain a united front.

Q: My husband does not make an effort to be a step-dad to my son. What can I do?

I got married 4 years ago to a man that had no kids. I had a 6 year old boy that I brought into the marriage. We have since had a daughter together. My problem is I feel my husband does not make an effort to be a step dad to my son. He refuses to do simple things like pick him up from school twice a week. I take him to school every day and all I ask of him is to pick him up just on 2 days of the week. He does not even ask my son how school is, help with homework or let alone he does not even know my son's teachers name. I am afraid that this will have an impact on my son as he grows. He is going to feel rejected by both his biological dad and by the only other father-figure he has ever known. What am I to do? I have spoken to my husband on numerous occasions and he does not seem to change his stance.

A: The best advice I have is to find common ground for them and make sure that they spend time together alone doing what it is they both enjoy doing.

Everything gets better with time

'Last week my step mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a mastectomy two days ago. I cried like a baby when my dad told me - but I have to say, she is doing well and they are both very positive.My parents got divorced about fifteen years ago because my dad met my step mom. It took us a long time to come to terms with it all and we suspected that "she was just after his money", but now all these years later they are still in love like on the first day. I've grown to love her very, very much and we are good friends. I just wanted to tell you step moms out there that in time your step child can become your friend - not your child i.e. replace their mommy - but a very good friend. When I acquired my troops we had a chuckle about it together and she said from one step mom to another... just bide your time.'

(Health24, updated May 2011)

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