Dear Aunt Sevvy,
I got divorced several years ago. The experience was embarrassing and discouraging, but in the intervening years I have rebuilt my life and relationships. I have met a wonderful woman and we have recently gotten married. The problem is, her oldest child is 12 years old and having trouble accepting that I’m an adult with authority in the house. It’s not like I’m trying to crack down or anything, but even me asking her to brush her teeth before bed or pick up her dishes from the table causes a rift in what was previously a congenial relationship between her and me. She goes to her mom and tells her how much she resents me for asking her to brush her teeth and how I’m not her dad. My wife always gently backs me up but it doesn’t take away from the resentment her daughter is feeling toward me. What can I do?
Blended families are the new reality, and thousands, possibly millions, have been in your shoes.
It appears that you have already sensed that this needs to be about building a relationship, and not just establishing authority over this child. Twelve is a tender and complex age, especially for a child who is experiencing such a radical upset in her life situation. You need to appreciate the importance of giving this enough time to develop trust.
So ease into your role as stepfather slowly. Do things together, talk about what is important to her. Be cautious about using a commanding tone. This is one of those situations where kind patience will work better than pushing and demanding and raised voices.
Both of you will eventually learn a balance, some way of functioning that works. I remind you again: time is your ally. You can’t rush a transition of this magnitude, especially with a child who is on the cusp of puberty.
You won’t be surprised to hear me remind you that prayer helps.
Aunt Sevvy wishes you the best in your new life with your new bride and children.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without your identity. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.