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lisaann
lisaann asks:
Q:

My partner's 14 year old daughter barely speaks to me. What to do? Her dad and I have been together almost 2 years now.

In Topics: Blended families
> 60 days ago

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Expert

ShirleyCressDudley
Feb 23, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

2 years is a long time. Unfortunately, the process will more difficult than if you had just become a blended family.  I’m guessing that your stepdaughter isn’t in the home full time, but comes for visits.  Because she isn’t in your home full time, you have tolerated her behavior.

Here’s what I would do:
Talk with your husband and agree that having members of your blended family not speaking to each other is not acceptable.  Agree on some house rules for every child in the home (whether they live there full time or just visit.)  Set aside a time for you to present your house rules to the kids.  Explain that you’re a little late getting started, but it’s not too late to make positive changes.  (If something happened to make this behavior expecially intolerable, you may want to mention it.  Or you could even use the example of reading a response on JustAsk.com)

Explain that there are consequences for not respecting the rules of the house.  (Make sure you have a consequence ready and the biological parent is ready to enforce them.)

Here are some typical rules:
-Be kind to everyone in this house.  Talk to family members and treat them like you would like to be treated.
-Be respectful of all adults in this home.  Obey any requests from all adults in this home.
-Keep your area clean.

End the discussion reminding all children that you love them and want what’s best for them. Explain that part of being an adult is teaching children what’s right.

Your stepdaughter will be confused and angry. She is pleased with the current situation- ignoring you and acting as if you don’t exist. She will go to her father and try to get him to “side” with her; she’ll probably say that the request to speak to you is “too hard” or “unreasonable.”  Be prepared for this. You and your husband need to present a united front.  You husband needs to explain to her that he loves you and you are his wife.  As his wife, you are to be respected as an adult in this home, one that he consults on parenting issues.  He should explain that is would make him happy to see her “come around” and be a part of his family.

If your stepdaugher continues her behavior (ignoring you) then your husband will need to enforce consequences.  These consequences may have to increase, if your stepdaughter is stubborn and doesn’t want to change.  Also, your husband should not arrange special one-on-one times with his daughter during this transition.  He can talk privately with her, as he transports her to your home, or in a room in your home- but not take her out for ice cream, movie or hot chocolate to discuss this.

It will take several months for these changes to occur, but once your daughter acknowledges that her dad has remarried and she is now part of a blended family, all of your lives will be easier and more enriched by spending time with each other. Good luck.  It’s going to be tough, but it’s time for this change to happen.

Shirley Cress Dudley, MA LPC
Founder of The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.

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