My stepchildren, ages 16 and 17, are incredibly rude to me, even though I had nothing to do with their parents’ divorce. I met their father two years later and nine months after that, we moved in together. They barely say hi or look at me. I handle it by being unobtrusive, preparing food they might like and making myself scarce to give them space together. But it hurts. They won’t join us for holidays if my children are present, so we spend holidays apart — me traveling to see my kids and he staying home to accommodate his. His kids have always gotten what they wanted and are entitled and narcissistic. What can I do?
Trudy: I hated my stepmother at first. But don’t live your life like this. Step 1 is confronting your husband. He should be sticking up for you and setting rules for split holidays, respectful communication and more. The kids are caught up thinking that if they like you, it’s a betrayal of their mother. Explain that you will never replace her. Over-mothering was my main beef toward my stepmother.
Alison: Step-families are born of loss. Children, even quite grown-up ones struggle with the loss of their parent’s marriage, how life was going to be, their dreams etc, it’s like a bereavement they need to go through. Children don’t get a say in who their parent partners next time round, so this is more change for them, even if it is a while since the divorce,(it can cause problems many more than just two years afterwards.) In addition the other parent may be still angry or upset, and getting at you can be a way of sticking up for their parent who is upset or angry. Trudy’s right though, it needs to be addressed as being allowed to fester will not cure it, but with understanding communication not angry rebukes. Try this: Have a family meeting when you list out the things that are upsetting them, and you, and your husband, find about five house rules, (the most important ones,) to make things better around the home, (like greeting each other on arrival and departure). At the meeting establish the role you are to have in their lives – don’t over mother! Allow them a bit of proper planned time with their father alone, making yourself scarce is a good idea, but also tell them how long you’ll be away for so they can plan some quality time together. Assumptions are your enemy, usually poor behaviour is a cry for help to be noticed. Set up a listening situation, and watch things change. Oh! and one last thing, don’t forget to look after your own well-being so you have enough good-will and energy to help look after theirs.