Stepdaughter Draws Evil Pictures of StepMother
Submitted by Blended Family Expert Shirley Cress Dudley.
My 9-year-old stepdaughter is having problems accepting me in her life as her stepmother. She is very close to her real mother and has told me numerous times that she hates me and doesn’t want me in her life. She has been acting up a lot and showing lots of aggression and disobedience towards her Dad and me. It has gone as far as her not even hugging her Dad or wanting to come to her Dad’s house because she doesn’t like me. The other day she drew a picture of me with devil horns and a tail. Her mother defends her by saying that she is just merely expressing herself. I am very hurt by her drawings and just want her to like me. We are talking to a counselor about her behavior but the counselor is siding with her mom, saying that the drawings are just an expression of her. Her Dad and I have been married for five years now. What can I do to get her to accept me and not take her hate for me out on her Dad?
Shirley Cress Dudley responds: I would have agreed with the counselor and her mom, if you had not added that you’ve been married for five years. My guess is that her mom is saying negative things about you and encouraging her daughter to hate you. “Hate” is a strong word- but divorced parents are sometimes very confused, and think that getting the children involved in their adult issues will somehow make the situation better. It sounds as if your husband’s ex-wife has some unresolved anger and bitterness towards the divorce and then remarriage. Involving her daughter in this anger and bitterness is very unhealthy.
It’s time for your husband to talk to his ex-wife about his expectations of how they raise their daughter. Each parent should do the best they can to parent the child, and to support the other parent in their role. Your husband’s ex is trying to get her daughter to choose between you and her. By making you evil, the biological mom is assuring her daughter that she really loves her. This is nonsense.
Your husband needs to talk to the mother of his child about speaking positively of all adults involved in this co-parenting process. (All adults means you too.) To do the best job raising their daughter, she needs to be in an environment where she knows all the adults care about her and want what’s best for her. Her mother can help this situation by speaking positively about dad’s wife and the role she has in her life. He also needs to tell her mom that the two of you will speak positively about her, at all times, in front of her daughter (and fully expect the same behavior from her.)
Why should she do it? (She will ask….) Well, by continuing to teach her daughter that her stepmother is evil, she will eventually lose a healthy relationship with her father, distrust anyone her mother decides to marry, and, at some point, will realize what her mother is doing, resent her mother’s actions, and break off a relationship with her too. This pattern will result in a very confused teenager, and someone that will be counting the days to leave home and figure out how to have a normal life without crazy parents.
Unfortunately, your husband might talk to his ex and she may choose to ignore his requests. In your own home, here are some steps you can take:
• When she is visiting, make sure you have house-rules/expectations in place. (Example: rudeness and disrespectfulness will not be accepted.) Her biological dad should enforce any consequences from her poor behavior. Make sure you go over the expectations with her, in advance, so she understands the rules of the house and the consequences.
• The two of you tell her, regularly, that you love her and enjoy spending time with her and having her a part of your blended family.
• Find opportunities to tell her that you know you’re not her mom, and never want to take the place of her mom. However, you’re happy to be a part of her life as an additional adult to love her and care for her. If she is rude, walk away, and let her father talk with her about her behavior (along with providing consequences.)
• Also have her father talk to her about the difference between a mom and a stepmom, and how there is no competition. She can love both of you, and both of you can love her.
It’s going to take some time. I hope your husband can convince his ex that her negative words about you are really hurting her daughter. If not, then your husband and you can create as normal an environment as possible (after-all- none of us are perfect,) with two loving parents- who maintain a loving home with rules and expectations, when she visits. Good luck to you. She’s still young, and I believe you can really make a difference in her life if you take action now.
Shirley Cress Dudley is a licensed professional counselor with a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling, and a master’s degree in Education. She has a passion for helping blended families grow strong and be successful, and her book, Blended Family Advice, has been touted as the ultimate must-read for couples contemplating or undergoing such change.