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How to Treat a Stepdaughter

by Maria Magher, studioD

Becoming a stepparent is often both an exciting and a scary time. It's not unusual to have worries and concerns about your developing relationship with your stepdaughter or other children who are not biologically your own. Keep in mind that the children are likely to have apprehension about the situation as well. However, with a little planning, some patience and some understanding, you can learn how to treat your stepdaughter and build a strong relationship.

Be open and understanding. You are likely to face resistance when you first try to develop a relationship with your new stepdaughter, as she may see you as the cause for her parents' separation or at least the reason why they will not be getting back together. You can expect a cool reception, but you need to keep trying to connect with her if you want to make progress. You shouldn't withhold approval and affection. Look behind her negative behavior to see what is driving it, suggests the FamilyEducation website. Try to understand what your stepdaughter might be experiencing such as a fear of being hurt, a need for independence, or perhaps she feels that if she develops a relationship with you, she isn't being loyal to her biological parent. Treat her as you want her to treat you -- with respect -- no matter what she says or how she reacts to you.

Spend quality time together. Love and affection take time to develop, notes the HelpGuide.org website. To encourage that development, try not only to do fun things together as a family, but also ensure that your stepdaughter is a part of you and your partner's everyday life routines, even if she doesn't live with you. When including her in your daily routines, try to one-on-one time with her. For example, suggest that you prepare a special meal together or suggest that the two of you shop for groceries. The more time you spend together, the more likely she is to see you as a part of the family and to warm to a relationship with you.

Allow your partner to be in charge of discipline. Unless you join the family when your stepdaughter is very young, it will be very difficult for you to participate in discipline since it will likely create resentment in your stepdaughter or your spouse, notes Dr. Phil.

Don't bad mouth the other parent. Talking negatively about your stepdaughter's biological parents -- or about matters related to the divorce, custody, or spousal support -- in front of your stepdaughter as this can drive a wedge between you. Wait until you are alone with your spouse to talk about logistical matters.

Let the relationship with your stepdaughter develop naturally. Don't force it. You can't make your stepdaughter love you -- or even like you. Trying to force a relationship before she's ready to have one can alienate her and cause resentment. Be present in your stepdaughter's life. Learn her interests and try to discuss them with her. Attend her extracurricular activities and take an interest in her schoolwork. Take your cues from your stepdaughter. If she pulls away from you, step back, but don't stop making an effort to develop your relationship. Let your step daughter know that you're there for her whether she needs to just talk, wants you to drive her somewhere or can use some help with her homework. Don't expect or force physical affection from your stepdaughter. Allow your stepdaughter the time and space she needs to work through her emotions concerning your blended family.

Items you will need
  •  Patience
  •  Understanding
  •  Consistency

About the Author

Maria Magher has been working as a professional writer since 2001. She has worked as an ESL teacher, a freshman composition teacher and an education reporter, writing for regional newspapers and online publications. She has written about parenting for Pampers and other websites. She has a Master's degree in English and creative writing.

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