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proexpert37, Educator/Life Coach
Category: Parenting
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Experience:  Teacher 20+ years, Parent, Expert Mentor
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My 20 yo stepdaughter stopped responding to me and her Dad

Customer Question

My 20 yo stepdaughter stopped responding to me and her Dad in January.
She had been with us for a week after having a huge fight with her Mom.
She was happy with us and spent more time with us than we thought she would
at her age. She made up with her Mom and moved back there. After one email
about the rest of her stuff, she never responded again. We sent a few invites and
separately left texts and voicemails until about mid April never hearing back. In September we left messages for her birthday. Our birthdays and Thanksgiving passed with nothing. We feel due to her age if she does not want contact then that is that. We have cried together many days and nights, but have come to accept it somehow. When family and friends ask we just say we don't hear from her. She does not interact with mutual friends or Dad's family now either. She and I always had a great relationship and I know she loves her Dad very much. We were never high maintenance and accepted the off day for holidays, etc. I also know she knows that if she is over the step parent thing, then I do not have to be around when she wants to spend time with her Dad. That is why we contacted her separately. Do you think I should try to send her something more forceful, like please don't make the mistakes I made because you don't know how long you will have your Dad (Here Comes Goodbye by Rascal Flatts comes to mind ) Or should I just make sure she knows again that she does not have to interact with me ? I know this sets me up to be disrespected even more, but I don't ever want her to feel the pain of doing this to her Dad and then losing him before she wakes up. You never know what may happen in life. I have tried many times over the past 10 years to not be around at different times, but she would always ask where I was and tell her Dad she missed me.
This behavior is nothing she learned in our home. She did witness a model of disrespect for us through her mother's actions during the past two years especially, but this seems so extreme. Also, we want to continue paying for half of all college expenses, but is this the right thing to do ? We feel that we agreed to pay for college, so we are keeping our word. But are we inviting more disrespect ? We can pay the bill without any interaction, so I don't think it would be seen as a way to get her to speak to us. Still cannot believe I am writing these words. More tears . . .
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  proexpert37 replied 2 years ago.
Hello and Thank You for using Just Answer. I am sorry to hear about the pain experienced as a result of your stepdaughter's lack of communication. Was this the first time she has been so non communicative? Was anything negative ever said by you or your husband to her? Do her mom and dad get along? Does your stepdaughter live far from you? Thanks!
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

This past January SD was going to a local college and living at home.

We live about 15 minutes away from her Mom and 20 minutes from the college.

Mom is 10 minutes from the college and SD said it was easier to move back because it is closer. She was leaving lunch at a restaurant in between classes with us and got her things in between PM classes. I did say we are only 10 minutes further and are we not going to see you much again anymore ? She emailed me after that for other things she forgot and I dropped them off at the house. The same thing I had done dozens of times over the years. I never did not have time for her and was happy to do all of the back and forth. Never made her feel bad for forgetting things and told her I will miss not being able to drive her places anymore.I have many cards from her stating how blessed she is to have me in her life and I am the best SM in the world, etc. I always wanted her to feel special and tried to soften the blow of divorce. She was my maid of honor and we had a connection that did not have to do with steps. She texted a mutual peer that is my goddaughter to see if she was going to our annual party in February and that is the last anyone else we know has heard from her. SD told her Mom she would contact us in I think April. Her mother and father get along and attend functions together. We were at her graduation party and Mom and husband were at our going off to college party. We hug each other goodbye. But her Mom does not place any importance in her time with her Dad. If this were reversed SD would not have been given any longer than two weeks without calling her Mom. The most SD did not contact us before would be returning maybe the third call from her Dad when he would call to say Hi. She always just said she was busy. That only started in the past three years after boyfriends and driving started. Mom also called less because there were less problems. We were called by Mom for EVERY emergency parenting problem over the past 10 years because her Mom would say she could not handle it. Mom would call me personally for reassurance about PMS moments with SD. Mom even called us for this when SD wanted to move in with us and would not talk to her. I called her to reassure her that she wasn't isolating, etc. Mom has never reached out to me in the past 10 months. It was her usual mantra when my husband spoke with her last. Doesn't know what is wrong and she can't get involved. Really unbelievable. I think Mom is afraid of getting the same treatment, but I do feel used. I was always so respectful of Mom even according to her own family. SD was redirected every time she tried to bad mouth her Mom in front of us.

Mom was represented in a ring we gave SD at our wedding. I could go on and on and I have. . . lol ! I know SD has been holding things in and rec to my husband that her parents and she see a counselor together before college two years ago. Wish I could have had that, but I am not the parent. Just an innocent bystander that knows the pain of divorce as a young girl.

Cannot believe how much I am crying now. My husband is devastated by all of this and cannot understand why I am being treated this way. SD's parents were divorced five years before we met. He is also a child of divorce and never wanted it for his own child.

Even though this is the most painful abandonment of my life, I can cope if it is the blame everything on the stepmother thing which I have read about online. I think something at college may have triggered it. We did hear less from her starting her second semester of college (1/2010) but we figured that is increasing independence. Her mother insisted on calling her every day. Maybe we should have done that . . .NOT ! I know SD has been to a counselor a few times this summer and there are many pressures in her life. Her mother has no idea what is going on coming from an intact family of origin. I do feel this has nothing to do with us and she knows we love her unconditionally. We are the safest people for her to focus any rage. But, I can't bear her doing this to herself and her sweet father anymore. He is the most caring supportive man and so much fun to be around. We just had a Breaking Dawn party for my 15 yo goddaughter's

birthday and he did all the food and was the life of the party. All the kids liked being around adults. Weird, huh ? SD has been away at college since the fall about a seven hour drive away. I assume she was back for Thanksgiving, but we heard nothing.

Living in the real world, do we send thousands of dollars to the college or not ? Mom used to call us to divide every penny, but I think she does not have the nerve to do that at this point. Sometimes we split and sometimes we paid for alternating semesters.

We could pay for Spring next month. Should we ? I really don't want to talk to SD unless she is ready. If she came over today we would hug her and tell her how much we love her . . .

Last we did was a Happy Birthday phone message from her Dad in September.

Literally Happy Birthday & I love you. And an email from me that I was giving her time and wanted to say HB but time got away from me because I had to go get my Mom in FL and she has not gotten better from an illness as yet. I told her because she was close to my Mom and wanted to go and live with her when she was 14 so I thought she should know. Is it true that you hurt the ones you love the most ? Hurting people hurt people ?

 

Expert:  proexpert37 replied 2 years ago.
Hello and Thank You so much for your detailed background information. I do feel your pain and sympathize with you. Unfortunately, you have done all that can be done. There is no amount of phone calls, e mails, or any other method that can force your step daughter back into your life. Although it may be extremely painful now, let her go and live your life since she is continuing to live hers. You can continue such actions of texting, e mailing, etc.but she will return on her own accord. She is not trying to intentionally hurt anyone. She just is being a young adult asserting her freedom and independence. She may be influenced by boyfriends and other close associates who do not have close relationships with family. There is nothing that you can do about that. You cannot control her. She has made up her mind as to how she wants to spend her time. You and your husband have instilled good morals and values into her mind and soul. She has not forgotten about you at all. In time, she will come around. If you discontinue paying for her schooling, she may drop out if she has no other means to pay.

Here are two books that you might find helpful:

When Parents Hurt
By: Dr. XXXXX XXXXX

I Thought We'd Never Speak Again
By: XXXXX XXXXX

You are not alone in your situation. Time will heal your wounds especially when you know that you have not done anything wrong!
proexpert37, Educator/Life Coach
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1374
Experience: Teacher 20+ years, Parent, Expert Mentor
proexpert37 and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your response.

SD is more than able to get a student loan for the portion her mother will not pay.

I just want to make sure we are not inviting more disrespect for paying as usual.

If you are sure that is not the case and it won't be viewed as manipulation, we will do it.

Since no one has asked for money during this time, maybe she won't accept it.

 

We were never the side she had the fights with, so do you think we will ever find

out why she chose to target us ? She knows how much we love her. The sign at her going to college party said "we love you more than air". How could she not be doing this intentionally ? She has to know how much this is hurting us !? If she just didn't want to be around us she could just throw us a bone and call once in a while and we would never have been the wiser. This type of aggressive abandonment can't be healthy for her. We do not want to force anything and know it is pointless. Friends and family say it is her loss to let us slip away. Then we feel like defending her in some way. Maybe she is ill and we are not there to help her ! Physical illness is easy for people to understand. Anything else, and they fall all to pieces.

I don't know of anyone else in this situation without some big blow up. All we ever did was help and support her in every way. How can her mother not even call me after all, and these are her words multiple times, I have done to help her child ? I do feel like I want to tell her how I feel and how her years of parental alienation and disrespect for SD's Dad have finally paid off. She is completely out of his life. People that break up marriages without any concern for the children always rewrite history and become the perfect parent. Mom had almost no interaction with SD from birth to five and left all the caring to Dad ! (You don't have to comment on the Mom rant. I know that is another subject.)

I pray you are right and time will change things and she will come around. Whatever that will look like I can't imagine. I don't think she has the tools to relate again after breaking up our precious family. She always said we were a good team and could back each other up. But she is also the same person that would burst into tears of embarrassment if she had to send back a bad meal at a restaurant. The reason this continues to weigh so heavily on me is two fold. I think something traumatic happened that no one knows about and has brought shame into her life. From a Christian perspective the devil uses shame to lie to people and make them forget who they are. And I have a consistent bad feeling that she will learn a very hard life lesson from this and have the pain of extreme guilt for the rest of her life. We worked so hard to protect her from things, but maybe this is something we won't be able to protect her from . . .

I pray someone that knows about Love comes across her path that can show her she is being lied to and she can come back to herself whenever she wants !

Expert:  proexpert37 replied 2 years ago.
If you withhold the money for her schooling then maybe she will realize that you have stopped enabling her and that you can't support her if she refuses to have contact with you. Maybe she will then finally call and ask for financial support and then you can all talk. Until then, try writing a letter explaining how you feel. She may not respond but at least she will know where you and your husband stand. The devil tries to break up families by destroying them. Keep the faith and do not be anxious. Wait patiently and God will change the situation in His time.
proexpert37, Educator/Life Coach
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1374
Experience: Teacher 20+ years, Parent, Expert Mentor
proexpert37 and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you again !

I will really try to stick with your last recommendation !

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi again,

Those books were good. I wonder though, how much time

her mother is spending trying to find answers for her daughter's behavior ?

We are trying very hard to keep the faith and not be anxious.

The holiday was very difficult.

SD must be home from college and she did not come to the

Christmas Eve party that is held every year on her Dad's side.

We all went together for the past 10 years. No one asked us

anything, but I know they were all thinking it !

Her Dad was so sad and I fear the emotional pain is aging him

very quickly. He has chronic physical pain from a leg injury and this

feels like too much for him to bare.

He left a voicemail for her on the 25th simply saying Merry Christmas

and we love and miss you. So, you see there is always an opening

from him that is non threatening and she still does not respond.

How difficult can it be to leave a voicemail ?

I still think there is a reason she is making a point of this and not just

leaving the occasional message or any bone at all.

We did not write a letter because we want to see her physically so there is no misunderstanding. We would have to wonder where to send it, if she received it

and if she read it.

We did not want her to call us because of money, so

I sent a text to her mother two weeks ago to find out the Spring college expenses.

She replied Thank you and the total amount due. We will pay all of that

and then next Spring as well only because we keep our word. Not

because we have to ! When I saw that reply from her mother with no greeting,

name or salutation all I could think of was that people

have so much nerve. She and her whole family always said we made

such a difference in her daughter's life ! What is going on ???

How can she not be reeling that her daughter is acting this way ?

Does she not know that if anything happens her daughter is in for a

lifetime of unhappiness ?

When I married my husband, I signed up for the whole extended family thing.

Her mother and husband are my extended family and they have no empathy ?!

Mother is supposed to be this authentic life and yoga type person. What is up with

that ? I hope I see the law of Karma work someday in my life.

None of the pain I have experienced in my life

(and there has been a lot) compares to this !!!

SD will most likely be in our small town for another three weeks before

school starts again, but I have lost the desire to see her as you said unless she is ready. Why are we going through this ? I pray for an answer. I did not chime in on the Christmas

message hoping she would contact her Dad. If she is focusing her rage

on me, the stepparent, why doesn't she at least leave her Dad a message ?

Expert:  proexpert37 replied 2 years ago.
Hello again my dear client. Nice to hear from you again and Thank You for consulting Just Answer. You have four options: leave the situation alone as you have been doing, call the daughter saying that you would like to talk before she returns to school, just show up at mother's house one day hoping to see and talk to the daughter, leave a message for the daughter saying that spring will be the last semester that you pay for her schooling because of her lack of contact and disrespect. In the meantime, you and your husband may need to seek counseling to cope with such painful feelings. It probably feels like your SD has died because of the lack of contact. All you would like is answers from her for her actions. She at least owes you that much!

Have a Happy New Year!
proexpert37, Educator/Life Coach
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1374
Experience: Teacher 20+ years, Parent, Expert Mentor
proexpert37 and other Parenting Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

We have a monthly service with JA and the answers from

Neurology to Horse Management to Appraisals to Mechanics

have been better than anything in countless trips around town.

 

We really need someone to tell us which of those options

is the correct choice. Your reply of 11/29 was the way I was

feeling things were. Then the harsh holidays came and went

and my human side says no. Only option one leaves us with

any control. The others may leave us with more difficulties.

I do think I will meet with the mother after SD goes back to school

to tell her how I feel about the way she treated me after years of

looking to me for every answer.

You are right that it feels like a death. Do you still

think she has not forgotten about our times together and will

come around ? Or do you now think it is intentional ?

 

Expert:  proexpert37 replied 2 years ago.
Since the holidays have come and gone and your SD has made no effort to contact you, her actions are now very much intentional. Meeting the mom may be a good idea. She may be able to provide some insight as to why your SD is behaving the way she is. Your SD has not forgotten about the good times that you all shared. She is being manipulated and influenced by others who have shaped her thinking and actions. However, you deserve some answers. Why is your SD being so distant? Hopefully, the mom can clue you in. It may be best for you not to "attack" the mom for how she treated you in the past. Do not stoop down to her level. You want her to try to be cooperative with you so you can find out some info on your SD.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes, I always think things out before that type of meeting and

get my frustrations out then because making someone defensive

does not keep them " closer ".

I think much of the influence actually is coming from her mother

in that she is condoning the behavior.

If it were on our end she would have long ago received a Dad says

I have to call and talk to you call . . . never ever would this have

continued.

My husband spoke to the Mom in May and tried to find out what was

going on. She said she had no idea and that SD told her she would call

us. And that she was going to go to couseling.

SD probably just manipulating her telling her what she wanted to hear.

 

I have the monthly subscription, so I thought I should Accept Answer each time.

Then customer service at JA told me I get charged extra each time in the same thread.

Then, in the same call, they said there were no additional charges on my account.

Don't really know what to do now, but I will call and ask again when I can.

In the meantime, I will start a new thread each time unless you may know the correct answer ?

Expert:  proexpert37 replied 2 years ago.
I do not handle customer service issues. Sorry....

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