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My 16yr old is lashing out at me because she says her stepfather-to-be in 2 weeks has taken me away from her. Her father and I got divorced when she was 4 and he has never played an active role in her life. It's always been just me, my daughter and my 12 yr old son. I can see how she thinks that because I never had anyone to share things with except them and now I have the most wonderful man ever and she says she wants her mom back? How do I deal with her lashing out at me and her rudeness to her soon to be stepdad?


Marsha Temlock Replied: It is fairly common for children to resent the new person in their divorced parent's life. You and your teenage daughter have a srtong bond that needs to be maintained. She has not had her father around and her brother has become the male role model -- You do not say what her relationship is with her brother, but I assume she sees him as her protector. Your daughter may also be worried that you will be hurt again. She may be rude because she is jealous and distrustful. I think you need to assure her that you will always be there for her and that your heart is big enough to include this fourth person. Your soon-to-be husband can reinforce this by going out of his way to make her feel special, but know it will take time to win her over. However, you do need to set boundaries. Make it clear that being disrespectful to you or any adult is not acceptable. Also cool it about playing up how this guy is the most wonderful man in the world. Let her know you are happy and that this relationship is going to make your family closer and prove it by including her and your son in things you do. Focus on togetherness. Good luck. (Marsha A. Temlock, author Your Child's Divorce: What to Expect, What You Can Do Impact Publishers.
Posted On 2008-02-03 10:48:48
Brenda Bercun Replied: It's great that you can understand your daughter's thinking. I hope you can also understand her feelings. At the age of 16 a teenager very much needs stability as they work on their individuation and the challenges that being a teenager offers. Teenagers do not look to their parents and want what is best for their parent's happiness. They are consumed with navigating their world which includes school, social issues, extra curriculum activities and figuring out who they are. I don't know how long you have been in relationship with your fiance and whether he has been able to develop a supportive relationship with your daughter and your son. It sounds by your question that this has not occurred. In my work I see many children and teens who are dealing with similar situations. The bottom line is that your children need you to be there for them 100% until they are launched. From your question is seems that you have been doing just this for all of their lives. Your children need to understand that your commitment to them will not change. Your fiance must support this by becoming an auxiliary parent to your children and supporting you as their mom. He is not to discipline them. That is your job as it has always been. He is to help out with carpooling, meals, homework, etc. He is their male role model and hopefully has wonderful things to teach them. He is not just marrying you, he is marrying you and your commitment to being your children's mom. In time your children will be out of the house and then it will be the two of you. Until then your children are the first priority. If you and your fiance can understand and support the importance of what I have just written then I encourage you and your fiance to have a discussion with your children to express this commitment. Discuss concrete examples. Listen to your children's concerns and address them. If your fiance does not support this concept, then I must tell you that you are in for a very difficult time, and you are sacrificing your children's needs for your own. I encourage you to rethink your action of marriage at this time in your children's lives. But again if you and fiance are able to live this concept, you have the ability to create a supportive, loving home where a healthy relationship can be modeled for your children. Please remember that actions speak louder than words. I wish you and your family well.
Posted On 2007-05-23 11:57:59
Ashley Hammond Replied: One of the hardest issues that a parent faces in this situation is believing that she too deserves a life and having a boyfriend IS acceptable and allowed. You are entitled to move on and create a new life for your self. I strongly recommend family counselling as this is a complex issue that does need careful management. In the short term the actions of you and your fiancee will speak louder than any counsellor. Creating activities in which the entire "new" family can get involved in crucial. The children fear abandonment and these fears do need to be addressed. Going to the movies, taking a weekend away with everyone, doing special things with everyone is fun and relationship building. Seek guidance and give assurances about the "role" of step dad. Clearly define his boundaries for him and your chilrden. EVERYONE needs security and to find their place in the new "family" We understand the glow of new love and the desire to be with your man all of the time but your daughter will need her special time with you. It is a great start that your teenage daughter WANTS to be around her mom! Don't pass on that opportunity as she will soon be in college. Allow your children to be a part of the process for defining "kids time" and adult time. Give them power as they fear no control wih a new man. Your children will feel much better if they have some say in the "new" schedule. It is OK to be firm that your fiancee is part of the equation but that they also have some say in how the rhythms and schedule in family life is going to work. Good luck it will work out.
Posted On 2007-05-22 07:30:44
Margaret Heffernan Replied: I think the key here is to remember Freud's adage: you are not responsible for what you feel. You ARE responsible for what you DO with those feelings. There is every reason in the world for your 16 year old to be feeling jealous, invaded and deprived. Two things are happening to her simultaneously: she IS losing your total attention -- and, in her adolescence, she is wanting to pull away herself (which is definitely not the same as your moving away from her.) This is confusing, it hurts and she has no mental model for what life will be after you get married. You can't argue with feelings. They are what they are. What you can do is acknowledge that you see and understand them and that there's nothing wrong about having them. But you must also make it clear that having the feelings doesn't grant a licence to be rude, mean, spiteful or destructive towards you, your future husband or herself. The feelings are okay; some expressions of them definitely aren't. I presume you've always had rules in the past. This is just a new one. A couple of other thoughts: it would be a good idea not to call your future husband her stepdad until she thinks of him like that. This needs to proceed at her pace, not yours. It would also be a good idea to give both kids significant roles in whatever festivities you are planning. And make sure they get something good out of it. And finally it would be a good idea to go away with your new husband, even just for a weekend, to signal that something new has begun, drawing a clean line between then and now. Don't try to pretend that everything will stay the same because it won't. A final point. Most kids hate change. And so we struggle to maintain as much continuity in their lives as we can. This is fine - up to a point. But change is endemic in our lives and this generation of teenagers will experience a lot of it. Our job as parents is not to shield them from change but to give them the resilience they need to handle it optimistically. Your kids are both growing through a big change. Their experience of it (positive AND negative) is how they learn to handle change. Just because it's painful - for everyone - doesn't mean it isn't good for them.
Posted On 2007-05-21 04:16:13
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