Son and Stepdad Don't Get Along - and Mom is in the Middle
By Lisa Cohn
a divorced mom who recently re-married. My 11-year-old son, Sam,
and my new husband dont get along. My husband tries to get
Sam to clean up his room and show better table manners. Sam says
my new husband is not his dad and has no right to tell him what
to do. I often agree with my son. Sam is a good kid, and his room
just isnt that messy! My husband is often angry and says he
feels "left out" of our family. I often feel caught between
my husband and son. Please help me!
story is a common one. The biological parent often gets caught in
the middle in stepfamilies.
of all, I dont think its a good idea for your husband
to try to set new rules with your child right away. As Margorie
Engel, president of the Stepfamily Association of America says,
"A stepparent is an additional adult in the household, someone
who should provide support to the biological parent." When
a stepparent tries to set new rules in a new stepfamily, the stepchild
often resents it.
you and your husband could sit down and talk about whats bothering
him, and come up with a solution that works for all of you. If your
husband is trying to set rules so he can feel more like a "dad"
and part of the family, maybe there are better ways of ensuring
he feels included. Perhaps you could plan family outings with the
three of you. Or you could suggest ways that your husband could
connect with your son by focusing on a common interest.
Klopfer, a licensed clinical social worker and co-director of Stepping
Stones Counseling Center, Ridgewood, N.J., says that men who marry
women with children often do so because they want to be part of
a family. "They want to be part of something, as opposed to
being on the outside," he says.
they feel like theyre on the outsidewhich is common
in new stepfamiliesstepdads often feel powerless, says Klopfer.
They feel especially alone and powerless if they have no biological
children of their own. And they often dont know how to acknowledge
or communicate these feelings, he adds. Instead, they sometimes
criticize their stepchildren.
a stepdad criticizes his stepchild, a mom will often rush to protect
her child, says Susan Wisdom, co-author of the book, "Stepcoupling,"
and a licensed social worker in Portland, Ore.
this happens, its really hard to develop a relationship between
the stepfather and the stepchild because the stepdad feels so out
of the loop," Wisdom says.
mom should think about her goals. Does she want a better relationship
between her spouse and child? She should tell her spouse, Id
really like it if you two could get along better. This is hard on
me. Lets figure out whats going on here,"
suggests Wisdom. In some cases, counseling is a good idea, she says.
"You dont want this to break the stepcouple apart. The
stepcouple needs to come up with a plan for building bridges between
the stepdad and his stepson. Dont let an alliance between
the mom and her child create a rift in the stepcouples relationship."
I hope you can brainstorm with your husband about ways he can feel
includedwithout criticizing your son or trying to set new
rules right away.
Cohn is co-author of "One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories
and Advice for Stepfamilies www.stepfamilyadvice.com
and co-host of Stepfamily Talk Radio, an internet radio show: www.stepfamilytalkradio.com.