Brasilmagic\’s Weblog

Venting to the World

The “evil” stepchild

Popular culture has references to “evil stepmothers” and “the redheaded stepchild”, but few people discuss the difficulty it is dealing with stepchildren in today’s divorce riddled society. Nonetheless, message boards across the internet are full of stepmothers and stepfathers with horror stories of stepchildren who cause them immense grief, disrupt their lives, insult and steal from them and eventually destroy their parent’s relationships. I have personally heard stories of stepchildren or future stepchildren that made the lives of the mother’s boyfriend/husband or the lives of their father’s girlfriend/wife so hard that the stepparent-to-be could no longer deal with the situation.

Many parents feel guilty about their divorce and try to compensate by letting the children run their lives. Sometimes they feel hurt and lonely and lean on their children as confidantes, which is a lot worse. Children are not supposed to be burdened by their parents’ love lives. Not only they don’t have the maturity and experience to deal with these problems, they start feeling that the parent’s partner is their enemy, thus a feeling of competition develops. Moreover, throwing your child against your lover will only make this child have a very eschewed view of relationships in the future, affecting their capability to trust and have a good stable marriage themselves.

For younger stepchildren, the problem is usually establishing boundaries. These kids have been hurt by their parents’ divorce, and it is natural for them to dream that their parents will be reunited. Who doesn’t want that? The new girlfriend or boyfriend is an outsider, an imposter, a threat. Some smaller children do not even let their mother or father hold hands, sit next to or sit in the front seat of the car with their lover/boy-girlfriend/new spouse. What’s a parent to do? Establish boundaries and explain to their child that the GF/BF is their partner, but that they (the child) will always be their child, and will always be loved and protected. When a child sees that their Mom or Dad loves and respect their partner, they learn to respect that person as well, making them less inclined to oppose them or resent them.

Adult stepchidlren’s animosity towards their parent’s partner is often times related to money. They fear their parent will give the inheritance they feel entitled to to the new spouse. Some even resent if their parent spends any money on their new spouse. Some daughters resent if their father gives a nice gift to their girlfriends and wives. What a parent spends on their partner is their business, and not the child’s business.

Things are especially thorny with divorced men and women who only have one child. And things get a lot messier if the child is from the opposite sex. If you have watched the 1958 movie “Bonjour Tristesse”, with David Niven and the lovely Jean Seberg, you will see an example of a very unhealthy Daddy/Daughter relationship, where the daughter is able to completely manipulate and control her father to the point of driving his girlfriend to…oops, spoiler. There is also an Italian movie (I cannot recall the name) where a lonely divorced woman has a very “unusual” bond with her teenage son, who scared away every potential suitor his mother had.

Only children are not used to sharing their parent with anyone. When it comes to an opposite sex parent, they subconsciously see themselves as their parent’s romantic partner (“why does he need another woman/man, am I not enough”)? This situation is more complicated when a parents’ marriage breaks up very early in a child’s life. This child develops the “me and Daddy/Mommy against the world” syndrome. There was never a sibling to share the spotlight or the presence of a stable couple in this child’s life.

Enablers are parents who sense the child’s resentment of their new partner and feed into it, for several reasons. Sometimes, a divorced woman or man feels very lonely, and their attachment to their child goes beyond a normal father-daughter or mother-son relationship. They look to the child to supply all the elements of a full blown adult romantic relationship. That set up is a potential landmine when the parent finally starts dating or remarries.

Step parenting is a very difficult and thankless task. Many times the stepparents do what is within their power to treat their step kids well, encountering firm opposition and disrespect (or worse, the “behind the scenes” manipulation of their confused parent). In 90% of the times, the parent of the child is the person that can make this scenario better. If a child sees their parent and their new partner as a strong solid unit, their resentment will eventually turn into acceptance. As long as the child feels loved by their parent and has discipline and boundaries, problems between a step kid and stepparents are less likely to occur.

Finally, a parent whose child resents their spouse has to think: how can I love and protect my child and at the same time protect my relationship? After all, your child is going to grow up and marry someone else, and that person will eventually become their best friend and confidante. If you lost all the relationships in your life because of a jealous child, you may find yourself lonely. And sometimes a child never gets married because they don’t want to “have to” leave their primary relationship with their parent. Who hasn’t heard of those bachelors who never get married and still live with their mama (or talk/see mama every day), who disapproves of all their girlfriends? Kind of twisted, right?


December 1, 2010 - Posted by | Being a mother, Relationships


  1. […] The “evil” stepchild « Brasilmagic’s WeblogDec 1, 2010 … The “evil” stepchild. Popular culture has references to “evil stepmothers” and “the redheaded stepchild”, but few people discuss the difficulty it … […]

    Pingback by Evil stepchildren | Dinsersfarm | July 13, 2012 | Reply

  2. HELP! First of all I have never blogged before, yes I understand the day and age of modern technology, I just never have had a reason or the want to do so. I found this very helpful in gaining some peace of mind on this particular evening. In between snidely remarks back and forth of my fiancé every time he enters back into our bedroom I was able to settle myself down to right a little something down too.
    I have been divorced for over 10 years. I raised 2 sons without my ex-husband in the picture at all. I worked hard, have a home of my own and was some day looking forward to finding love again, having a full family again. 3 years ago, I met my fiancé; I knew I finally found a man who I feel is my true love and equal. The first year was great, the second year more serious with our engagement and moving in together. This third year has been very painful and hard for me. We have been trying to blend our families with disappointing results. He has 3 younger children, who seemed quite receptive to me until my younger son and I moved in with my fiancé after the sale of my home. Within the last 6 months, I have dealt with a 10 year old child who politely and with no reservations at all, admits to stealing from me, destroying my personal property and invading my privacy. The two younger children have not been quite as bad, but I’m just not used to dealing with children who act like this. We are on the verge of separating due to all the arguing between us as a result of him not dealing with them in the manner that I am accustomed to. I have mentioned many times; if my child would have pulled that on you, I would …. actions much more harsh that he would ever consider. Of course, any action at all would be harsher than he would consider.
    My ex-husband had two young children when we started dating who are now adults. I am aware of the ‘step children’ and ‘step parent’ relationship. We have a joke to this day; they address me as or I announce myself as Q.O.T.U (Queen of the Universe). I love them as much as any mother could love a child. I guess I just had to throw that in because I don’t want to come off as totally ignorant or naïve to this situation. We had years of issues too, but I had support and they had some respect.
    My fiancé and I agreed to start family counseling, but started with just him and me. Of course I understand you can’t build Rome in one day and this will take time. Our problem has gone from disagreement in child rearing to vicious arguments, name calling, and serious threats.
    Where can I gain the strength to make the right decisions? Am I the bad one, have I gone from the victim to the villain? I’m no martyr, just sad that such a little person can pull so hard on just the right strings to shake my belief and trust in the man that I love?

    Thanks for your thoughts, sorry so lengthy.

    Comment by Jill | August 13, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Jill: it’s very very hard. Parents take their kids’ side and that turns them against each other. Parents need to be an united front. Their kids cannot feel they have power to create conflict between the couple. Every stepchild will have some resentment against the person who replaced their mom or dad. I had a very bad experience too. Email me at

      Comment by Brasilmagic | August 13, 2012 | Reply

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