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How Can I Create a Bond With My Young Stepdaughter?

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 30 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
Stepfamily Step-daughter Parenting


My husband and I married about 12 months ago. We each have one child from a previous relationship. My son has formed a bond with my husband, as his biological father has never formed a solid bond with him. However, my step-daughter has both a stable mother and father.

She is adorable, but can be quite manipulative, often trying to cause division between my husband and I. No matter how I try to form a lasting bond with her, she seems to reject my attempts. She's 4 1/2. Any suggestions?

(A.M, 29 March 2009)


The stepfamily transition can be a bit rocky, as you’ve found out, but in most cases, time takes care of most of the initial problems. The first year of any marriage can be a bit of an adjustment period for both spouses and when you add children to the mix, the potential for complications rises a bit. Rest assured that your step-daughter will learn to accept and embrace you; it just may take some time.

Kids are funny little people—the more they feel pushed, the harder they’ll resist, so it might be wise for you to take a step back and give your step-daughter a little space. The more desperate you seem to gain her affection, the more she may withhold it. Try to make the time that you spend with her comfortable and fun, with a focus on activities that don’t require a lot of talking. If she seems to crave one-on-one time with her dad, allow and encourage the two of them to pursue a hobby together, showing her that you’re presence needn’t distance her from her father.

Since she has stable relationships with both of her natural parents, your step-daughter isn’t in need of another “mum,” and I would recommend that you are careful not to make her feel that you are in any way hoping to replace her mother, even if only when she is a guest in your home. Speak well of her mum frequently so that she comes to know that you admire and appreciate her mother’s good qualities and that you respect their unique connection.

Speaking of your step-daughter’s mother, if she is willing, she can be a great ally in helping you to get on well with your husband’s daughter. Part of your step-daughter’s hesitation for developing a close relationship with you may stem from a worry that by doing so, she may hurt her mother’s feelings. Her mum’s assurance can mean a great deal, so if you or your husband feel comfortable in asking for her help, you may soon find that that manipulative four-year-old soon turns into a happy and cooperative family member.

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Thanks Jill. Its hard not to feel in the way and an outsider when stepdaughter over. Just wanted us all to be as one family.....time to take off the rose tinted glasses!
Carly - 30-Mar-17 @ 11:48 PM
@Carly - the bond will take a while with your s/d - take it slowly, slowly. I think your daughter may resent your hubby disciplining her, they all do, again you have to take tentative steps - firm but fair is always a good move. Impossible to say whether another child would forge bonds or have an adverse effect as it's different horses for courses. Whatever you do good luck, there is always some drama in my house with the stepkids, I have three and one of my own *grits teeth*. Jill.
Stepmum2 - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:24 AM
Hi i wonder if you can help me....im recently remarried to a wonderful man but the children are a realy challenge. How do i cope with a stepdaughter who just wants her and her dad while staying with us and my daughter who challenges me also. should her stepdad manage her too? Also would another child of our own help us all become more bonded or add to strain? Its exhausting and draining on our marriage....
Carly - 26-Mar-17 @ 2:22 PM
@Ruiz - the thing about having biological children there is (as a rule) natural and instinctive bonds in place (but then many natural parents and their kids don't get on either). People are different - and they do not always find a bond with each other or any common ground. You might find as she grows bonds and a closeness or understanding may develop. But if you don't, don't feel bad it's just the natural way of the world. Nes.
VCA87 - 15-Feb-17 @ 2:29 PM
I have been apart of my stepdaughter since the day she was born.Her mother has nothing to do with her but I can't seem to find that bond. Any help would be great.
Ruiz - 11-Feb-17 @ 1:39 AM
@vik. I think you have hit the nail on the head by saying because he is an absent parent he tends to overcompensate. It's never easy for any father to be separated from his child and because of the love he feels for her, he probably wants to spend as much time with her as possible, due to the fact his time is limited with her because of access rights. In terms of your role; neither is it ever easy to take on your spouse's child. It's an arena fraught with difficulties with people the world over having similar problems to what you are facing now. The difference between you both is that he has the emotional attachment and you have the rational one and they often may not meet in the middle. With his decisions being emotional he will want her to have a nice/ fun time when he spends time with her. That can mean he ends up spoiling her slightly, it also might mean he prioritises her for the time you are all together. I imagine you on the other hand wish for things to remain normal and to go about your relationship in the usual way with his daughter fitting in to your way of life. There is no right or wrong answer to this, it's just a case of you both approaching the situation in the best way you possibly can and rationally talking through each others desires and needs. But just remember that your partner is probably still hurting deeply over being separated from his only child and that's why his actions are different from the norm. Good luck, part of the problem is realising there is a problem and that's a good route towards getting it solved.
BeingAStepParent - 16-Oct-14 @ 1:19 PM
Hello, I am currently facing some difficulties with my partner on the parenting of his daughter (4 years old). As an absent parent he sometimes tries to over compensate as he worries she may not want to visit. Sometimes this can be frustrating and I feel like our lives are sometimes dictated by what a child wants rather than us making a decision as a couple then speaking to his daughter afterwards.We do seem to have different ideas on parenting and tonight we have ended up falling out because my step daughter wanted to sleep in our bed. My partner allowed this and I woke very cramped and hot and said this shouldn't be happening. Instead of putting her back in her own bed he has gone in the spare room with her. We argued about it in front of her and he uses excuses like we'll she's poorly (she was two days ago but not now). It is very frustrating and I feel that when she sees us like this that it will make my relationship with her difficult. I do not want there to be a wedge. Whenever we argue about this my partner says he feels like it's a competition but it has nothing to do with this, I just have different views and think the boundaries need to be shaped slightly differently. Am I wrong for what I'm saying? I feel really upset about this. My partner will say I'm just being sensitive,am I?
Vik - 16-Oct-14 @ 4:09 AM
it can help you to include her in every activity or hobby that you normally do in your spare time like taking her out for games,shopping and going on holidays with her without her father
ntombiza - 9-Jul-14 @ 1:36 PM
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