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Stepdaughter Says She Hates Stepmother
Q: My husband has primary custody of his eight-year-old son and eleven-year-old daughter. They visit their mother every week. The problem is that my stepdaughter now hates me. It wasn't always this way. She made me a picture frame that read "I love you." for my birthday in May. She has told my husband that she wants us to get a divorce. She feels I am mean because I correct her. She has stated that she feels I like her brother more. We have her in counseling but she has made little progress. Her counselor says our daughter is not willing to do her part. Her mother also hates me and is very negative towards me. She took legal action to get primary custody. I am trying very hard, but this is putting an enormous strain on my marriage. What do I do? Are there any books that deal specifically with step-parenting? I have read The Parents Handbook to Divorce and Helping Children Cope with Divorce. Please give me some advice as I love both my husband and stepdaughter very much.
A: Some of the your step-daughter's responses to your setting limits for her are a child's way of manipulating and are very normal. I sincerely doubt if she hates you. She is probably experiencing a real conflict between her love for her mother and her love for you. She has not yet learned that she can love you both. The legal battle between her parents and her mother's attitude toward you are probably exacerbating the problem. Continue to be consistent in your discipline. Refuse to get in the middle. This will not be an easy time for you. I encourage you to maintain your patience, take care of yourself, and find your own support system (i.e., friends, counseling, support group). Does the school or community offer a support group for parents? Enroll if there is one.
You have read two good books, but if her mother and father haven't read them, you are standing alone. There are a several good sources for information on step-parenting. There is a step-parenting association -- http://www.saafamilies.org -- and a book that I especially recommend, I Didn't Grow Up to be a Wicked Stepmother.
For your step-daughter, a group for children of divorce might prove helpful in this difficult time. Check with her school counselor to see if the school offers such a group or if the counselor knows of one being offered in your community by professional counselors.
Again take care of yourself. You have made a good, smart start in understanding this entire process.
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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.