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TherapistMarryAnn, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5810
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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What is the best way to get an enstranged 19 yo step

Resolved Question:

What is the best way to get an enstranged 19 yo step daughter to reengage with her father and I? The bio mom has convinced her that he loves his "new family" more now that he has remarried.
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

Hi, I'd like to help you with your question.

In your discussions with your step daughter, have you brought up what the Bio mom said to her about you and your husband? If not, that would be a good starting point. Since this problem was created by Bio mom, then it needs to be addressed by your husband and you. I would not say anything against Bio mom. Have your husband keep his words and tone neutral, but let his daughter know that there may have been some misconceptions about how you and her father feel about her. Then have your husband let her know you both love her and would like to have a great relationship with her.

Your husband needs to be the leader in these discussions with your step daughter. Since the Bio mom convinced the daughter that it was her father who is more interested in his new family than in her, then it is up to her father to personally dispute this and let his daughter know he cares. She needs to hear it from him and no one else.

You can also ask her what prevents her from being close to you and her father. She may have some unresolved feelings about the family breakup she needs to work out with her father, or she may be confused, sad or hurt. Many children do not have a chance to express how they feel about divorce and remarriages because much of the focus is on the adults and not the kids.

If you feel that your relationship is too fragile or that your step daughter's feelings are overwhelming, seek out a therapist to act as a neutral party and help all of you learn to understand each other and communicate better. You can find a therapist through your family doctor or if you attend church, your pastor could help. Also, you can search on line at

Here are some books that may help you get started. One is called Stepmothers and Stepdaughters: Relationships of Chance, Friendships for a Lifetime by Karen L. Annarino and Jean M. Blomquist. Another is Divorce Poison New and Updated Edition: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing by Richard Ades Warshak. You can find these on or your local library may have them available.

I hope this has helped you,


Customer: replied 6 years ago.
There is also the dynamic and stated by step daughter that "she came first" and as such should be treated with preference as well as divisive behaviour--i.e. she will only acknowledge her father and refuses to acknowledge me or my kids from a previous marriage. How can we acknowledge her feelings without allowing her to dominate everyone elses feelings and needs? She will engage with her father but "her father exclusively". Is this really fair to me our marriage and the other kids feelings? My last interaction with the step daughter was a discussion centered arround reconciling that turned into her storming out of the driveway and referring to me as a bitch for not supporting the idea of a drinking graduation party after we had found out via facebook of her freinds intents to "get wasted" at it.
Expert:  TherapistMarryAnn replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the additional information. It helps.

It sounds like your step daughter is either very angry and is taking it out on you and your kids, or she has a mental health problem that needs addressed.

In this case, it is up to your husband to talk with her and let her know that he will not allow her acting out towards you. She does not have to like you, but she can act civil and respect you as a person. He is responsible for his daughter's actions around you and should be the one to deal with her. Otherwise, she will have another reason to blame you if you try to fix the problem yourself.

In the meanwhile, try to be civil towards her but let her father take the lead. She is too old at this point to need another parent involved in her life, so her relationship to you should be more friendship like. Keep a distance when it comes to any decisions in her life and allow her parents to deal with her.


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