Please contact Evil Stepmom at ESM@evilstepmom.org with your questions or ideas about stepfamily living with 17-30 year olds.

 



Dear Amy
Feeling Like Your Stepmom Doesn't Care
Dear Amy,

My dad and stepmom have been together for 10 years now. At first she was really nice and we had a great relationship.

She began changing when I became a teenager (I'm fifteen so 2-3 years ago). At first it was nothing much, but was just a cold between us. She started talking to me less and ignoring me a little. She started picking on my mom in front of me, telling me she was a bad mother (I live with my mom but go visit my dad every other week end). Then I heard her complaining about me to my dad, saying stuff that wasn't true.

That's when things got worse. She changed the wifi password so I didn't have access to it anymore (being in high school, I needed the internet for a lot of homework). One day I used my dad's old cellphone (which was already connected to the wifi) to go on the internet. She saw me online and confronted me about it, then hid that phone so I couldn't use it anymore. She started locking some doors to rooms in the house she didn't want me to access, but the problem was these rooms held some of MY belongings.

Last summer, I went to get lunch one-on-one with my dad. I talked about what had happened and how I wasn't comfortable around her; I just burst into tears. He had been really comprehensive about it, and told me he would talk to her because that situation couldn't last.

It has been 3 months, he talked to her but nothing changed. WHAT CAN I DO ? I don't want to hurt my dad, none of this is his fault, but I just can't continue living in that sadness. Please help me!

Signed,

I Don't Know What To Do

Dear I Don't Know What To Do,

I'm so sorry that you're in this situation – family struggles are always hard, and adding in stepfamily often makes it harder. It can be a challenge for everyone to communicate clearly, and do it in a way that doesn't hurt people. It sounds like you're stepmom isn't doing this well, and I'm sorry. I went through a lot of hardship with my stepmom as a teenager, and I know how hurtful it can be. Please know that none of this is your fault, and remember that you're not alone.

I'm glad that you talked with your dad about your situation. It sounds like he had good intentions of talking with his wife, but for whatever reason either didn't follow through, or wasn't clear enough. And that's a tough conversation for him to have – I'm sure he doesn't want to take sides, or upset either of you. But, I think it would be good for you to talk to him again and remind him how you're feeling, and let him know that nothing has changed on the part of your stepmom. However, remember that his conversation with her might not happen overnight, and it might create some tension. Ask him to talk with her while you're at your mom's house, so that you're not in the middle of their talk – it's between them.

I think you should also have a talk with your stepmom. Your dad might be able to help, but she should really hear how you're feeling from you. This will show her that you respect her enough to come directly to her with your issues and feelings. It might be hard, and that's okay. I myself have an incredibly difficult time with any sort of confrontation, but I've learned that there are times when it needs to happen, and I always feel better about it afterwords. Keep that in mind if you're feeling anxious – it will feel better, and you'll be happy you did it. Let her know how you feel about her being cold towards you, and that you don't understand why. It's also important to let her know that when you stay with her and your dad, you need to be able to use the internet for homework. Make sure to specify it's for homework – she needs to know that when she changes the wifi, she's preventing you from learning. Try and stay as calm as you can during this talk. If you get angry, she's going to get angry too, and nothing good will get accomplished. But if you stay calm and simply talk to her, she'll be much more receptive to what you're saying. As for her locking certain doors in the house, you need to have access to your things. Maybe you could suggest that all your things be put in one area that you do have access to. That way, if she really feels like there are good reasons she wants some doors locked, at least you can get at your things – which you have every right to.

When you stay at your dad and stepmom's house, try and be as conscientious as you can. Pick up and clean your dishes, help out with dinner, and keep your things in your room and not strewn about the living room. Little things like this can go a long way in showing your stepmom, and your dad, that you respect them and their house. Try and engage with your stepmom – ask her how her day was, if she's read any good books lately, etc. Hopefully she'll see that you're trying, and that you care about her as a person. If she doesn't respond, just leave it at that. Once you put in the effort, it's up to her.

As for you stopping your visits to your dad's house, make sure you really think about and don't just make a snap decision. The goal is for you to be happy, and that's what matters. Let your dad know how unhappy you are when you're at his house, due to your relationship with your stepmom. Tell him that you don't want to stop visiting, but it's too hard, and maybe suggest an alternative – could you and your dad meet up every other weekend, just the two of you? Walking through town, going out to eat, to see a movie, working on a project together – something that's just the two of you, and out of his house. This would be a great way for you to stay away from the bad situation at his house, but would still give you one-on-one time with your dad.

Whatever you choose, just make sure to think about how it will work out, and not just the short term solution. That being said, the most important thing to focus on is yourself. You're at a time in your life when a lot of things are changing – yourself, your interests, your thoughts about life – and you shouldn't have to shoulder any extra conflict and stress. You deserve to be happy, always remember that.

Please feel free to write any time, I'm always here.

- Amy

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