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Helping teen stepdaughter adjust here without being her pawn

stepping up to stepmother's picture

Hi everyone. It has been a little over a month since my DH was granted full custody of his 15 yr old daughter and she's come to live with us. I'm wondering how others would handle this situation:

BM lost custody and visitation because she and her live in boyfriend were involved in some very bad (illegal) things, and the 15 yr old was exposed to it living with BM. BM and her boyfriend are now being dealt with by law enforcement. More generally, BM treated the 15 yr old more like a friend to hang out with socially mixing BMs circle of questionable friends with her daughter's questionable friends. Parties, alcohol, and drugs in that household took precedence over SD's wellbeing and education.

SD and I are in a power struggle, because she didn't have any limits or rules when she lived with BM. Living here with us, she begrudgingly resists anytime I ask her to do anything around the house, and when I try and empathize and listen to her she still will turn on me when I gently explain my or DH's reasons for whatever is at issue.

The biggest issue she's upset about is switching schools and not being with her friends. Before moving here, SD was attending a large suburban public high school. Her grades dropped dramatically as she began to skip class, and get involved with groups of older teen boys that were a bad influence.

She wants to go back to the public school, but DH said no and enrolled her in a small private Christian school closer to us. DH likes the private school because it has small class sizes, students get more individualized attention and supervision, and to quote the handbook, there's a heavy emphasis placed on "scriptural based character development."

I'll admit I could do a whole post about certain things in the school handbook regarding expectations of student conduct, prohibited behaviors, disciplinary consequences, uniforms and personal appearance, that I would not have been excited about if I was her age transferring from a larger suburban public school.

While I maintain a united front with DH, and his right to ultimately make this decision for his daughter, I've been doing my level best to empathize and listen to SD's complaints about the new school. The more I empathize, the more she feels justified in constantly complaining. My DH has taken a strict no nonsense approach, and wishes I do the same.

How can I effectively empathize without giving SD the impression I side with her over DH? I feel like I'm walking a tightrope everytime I try and listen and reason with her. It's exhausting.


STaround's picture

From mom's illegal party house to small Christian school.   Agree with PP, let dh take the lead.  But if I were him, I would have looked for more of a compromise for school.  I expect she will be running away a year from now.

ESMOD's picture

I agree.. it sounds like she is somehow being punished for her mother's bad behavior.

I would have looked into his local public school.. unless it was absolutely horrid like her old one.

Unfortunately, at her age and with technology, he can't protect her from all her old friends and influences... being "too strict" can backfire too.

notarelative's picture

Is SD in counseling? Change of residence. Change of school. And unless she was brought up with the values of this Christian school she will find it difficult to fit in there. It's a lot for a 15 year old to deal with.