How do I get a child to accept me in our blended family?
After 2 years of dating, my boyfriend and I bought a new home together and blended our families. I have 2 daughters (11 and 15) and he a son (8). My girls are with us every other week and his son full-time. When he was married he helped raise a girl (13) that wasn't his. He loves this girl and wants nothing more than to have her still be a part of his life. The girl lives with her mom full-time. When she is with us she doesn't speak to me at all. Its quite clear she doesn't like me. I try my best to make her feel welcome but feel as though she will never accept me. I completely understand there will be adjustments for all of us but struggle when she purposely excludes herself. She hibernates in her brothers room and only comes out when she is hungry. My boyfriend doesn't see this behaviour as being inappropriate. She makes my girls and I feel as though she really doesn't want to be here. It's been 4 months in our new home and it's getting worse instead of better. How do I deal with this? I find myself stressed and uncomfortable in my own home.
Blended families are tough, and require work and cooperation from both partners. To be successful in this, you will need to get your partner "on board" with the goal of guiding your step-daughter. (She is your step daughter, in this case, because your boyfriend considers her his daughter.)
The work is going to be with you and your partner, not his other daughter. It's up to the parents in the family (of which you are the "mom", and your boyfriend is the "dad" in this family) to guide the children, and express expectations.
Create a set of family guidelines that you and your boyfriend agree on. Here are some ideas:
-Everyone should be polite, friendly and kind to each other
-Speak to anyone that's home when you are home
-Respect the adults (the mom and dad) in the home
There should be positive and negative consequences for following these guidelines. Also, the guidelines should be the same for all children- whether they live full time in the house, or visit.
Your boyfriends "daughter" is getting away with this behavior because your boyfriend is allowing it. It sets the tone for the other kids, though, that neither adult is in charge, and the kids can basically do what they want- and this is not acceptable.
Sometimes parents want to allow children some space, or freedom, due to divorce or separation of parents, but this is not what kids want. Kids want to be folded into the family- loved and treated as a family member. Family members have rules, guidelines and chores in the family. To help this child (and to help your entire family) your boyfriend and you need to agree on acceptable behavior for all the kids in the house, and then tell the children about the new family guidelines and expectations.
I wish you the very best. You need to make sure your boyfriend agrees and understands the purpose of this, before you begin. She will actually feel happier and more included in the family, if she is given the same expectations as the other kids (and your entire blended family will also be able to relax and interact with her too.)
Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC NCC FACMPE
Director of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center
Author of Blended Family Advice
She's probably scared, confused, and doesn't understand why her "step-dad" left her mother for you.
She probably feels sad and jealous and feels like your two daughters are taking her place.
Your husband could spend time with just her and his son for now, while she gets used to the idea of you and your two daughters.
Give her time, and continue being kind. Love is never wasted, and melts hearts. Give her a good 9 months to a year. That is a tough age anyway, and she needs a good male influence in her life. You could also try to make her favorite foods, etc. while she's visiting with you, and take her to her favorite places. Maybe just you, your boyfriend, his son, and just her could go places sometimes too. Up till now, she's been the queen. Give her time to adjust to two new sisters. Keep loving her, and don't get impatient with her. She's just a child.
Doesn't sound like a enjoyable setting. Wondering dating her dad for two years, there had to be a time when you actually talked to each other right? This couldn't of happened over night. What do you think triggered her not speaking, and wanted to seclude herself from the rest of the family? First pinpoint this, then you can start working on every one feeling excepted.