16 year old has been blanking me for years, what should I do?(284 Posts)
Would you tolerate your 16 year old DD completely blanking you?
I ask this of mum's. I'm a stepmum, we're not really given much slack on here, but hear me out.
16 year old DSD visits her dad and I under the agreement made by her parents when they split 10 years ago. Slightly under 50/50, five or six nights in every 14.
Mostly her and her dad spend 1 on 1 time together, while I do my own thing, but we occasionally have evenings together and we always sleeps under the same roof.
Unless I speak to her directly she doesn't speak to me AT ALL. When I do try to make conversation, it's usually through a closed door (to her bedroom) or on the rare occasion its face to face she doesn't make eye contact with me. I have tried everything over the years, she's always been a bit distant with me.
After another evening last night of this I'm a little bit at my wits end. Her dad has spoken to her about this, but doesn't want to push it as he doesn't want to upset her. I think he's teaching her that being rude is acceptable.
She has no special needs, is not autistic and has normal healthy relationships with lots of friends.
If this was your own daughter how would you handle this? I'm not her mum, she has a good mum, but even if I was a stranger, this sort of behaviour is not acceptable.
So she has been doing this since she was only 6? Why has it been like that for so long?
She's always been distant but when she was little there are a great many reasons why that could be and while it was hurtful I was the adult and said nothing.
For the last two years its gradually got worse.
I think he's teaching her that being rude is acceptable.
It's tricky because you can't (and shouldn't) force someone who doesn't want to, to communicate in the way you wish. People have to be polite. She answers when spoken to. That's minimal politeness.
I was like this with my mother around the same age. We were too similar and not enough. It really didn't improve until I left home.
You aren't going to change the relationship now when it's been years. However I wish my mother had offered to do things with me that involved no pressure, less talking and a choice. What does she like doing?
When did you and dad get together? Has it been ten years?
I’m not sure it’s comparable to my own child. I mean, I can insist that our house is a respectful home and we treat each other with kindness and respect and withdraw privileges if there is disrespect etc. but it is different with a stepchild. Especially one you haven’t known since birth, and one you have only 50% of the time.
It’s your husband who needs to take charge here. And if possible, her mother. I’m not a step parent though...
Would you force the situation if she was not a step child, but your own? Would you think it acceptable that a child under your roof behaved like this?
She likes doing stuff with her dad, and they do loads together. They have similar interests. I joined them initially but mostly let them do their thing. I'm happy with this and they seem to be too.
I've never forced her to speak to me, but I have thought I am the adult and I should make the effort, so I open up a conversation about school, or friends, or 'what did you do over half term', only to be met by one word answers at most.
@MrsTerryPratchett if you're asking if I'm the OW, no I'm not. We met after he'd been separated about a year.
Is there any chance she blames you for her parents breaking up? If not that, then I would think that she just doesn't feel that comfortable around you. And maybe she feels a bit awkward. Maybe she took you, giving her and her dad space to be together, as a sign that you weren't interested? It's hard to say, but I think you could try saying to her that you'd like to spend some time with her, take her out somewhere? Something to break the ice. I know that might seem ridiculous after so many years, but I'm trying to think how it might feel from her perspective. You might still feel a bit like a stranger to her perhaps? Through no fault of your own, it could just be a misunderstanding or something that's left her feeling that way.
Well yeah. I would. I have a teen and have experienced surly behaviour and have pulled her up on it. But I’m her mum. We love each other. It’s different. I also have the support of my husband.
But I wouldn’t force the situation with her if she were my step child. I would force the situation with her father though. This is your home too. You deserve to be treated with respect.
She might never love you. Or you her. But clearly there is room for improvement in the current situation!
It sounds like it's the paradigm you've both got yourself into from the start, so why would she change spontaneously - she's only a child. It's very telling that you've repeated that you usually let them do their own thing and stay on the sidelines. Who are you to her anyway?
The thing is, if it was my own child, I wouldn't have this history of her always being a bit distant with me! If any of my children seem distant, I organise 1 on 1 time, even after a day or two, to figure out what's going on. Often, they're upset about something or feel like it's their fault and I can help them fix it up. But this distant for years is something else entirely! Even so, 1 on 1 time without your husband might help. Do something she loves
OK so a long time. You've made the pattern very very firm by now. A habit like that is extremely hard to change.
so I open up a conversation about school, or friends, or 'what did you do over half term'
100% the absolute worst conversation topics. You need non-emotive, friendly topics that don't require any emotional content. Chocolate or vanilla? Fancy a cupcake? School and friends require thought. Don't require thought!
If your DSD is 16 it will only be a few more years until she becomes an independent adult. I doubt you can do very much to build bridges if she is resolute in not wanting to engage, other than be the bigger person and keeping the metaphorical door open to her having a change of heart.
I doubt your DH can do very much if there is fragility in their relationship. He probably recognises he's on shakey ground himself and doesn't want to rock any boats or take sides.
A very tricky situation, all you can do is be magnanimous and hope she comes round in the future.
If she has a good / reasonable relationship with her mum, she may have divided loyalties and thinks by blanking you, she's is somehow being loyal to her. You're unfortunately not wanted on voyage.
A painful feeling but if you can come to terms with that, you can build a protective wall around yourself and increase your own resilience. Kinda don't allow yourself to feel anything.
I don’t think there is anything you (or her dad) can really do other than continue making small opportunities for her to not be so rude. If you try and force the issue you are much more likely to ruin your DH’s relationship with her than you are to make her treat you better.
Here’s the thing, even though you may be the loveliest person in the world, you are someone who has been forced on her. For a long time she had no real option other than to have you around. You don’t have to be with her Dad, you could decide to leave and have a life with a different person. But she had to visit her dad when she was little and there you were - being a stranger who is special to her dad, and who gets to be with him all the time. Which is pretty difficult for kids to understand sometimes. Even at 16 I think it’s hurts kids to know that other people have more of their parents time and attention than they do.
He married you even though she didn’t get on with you. She’s probably been pretty pissed about it and blames you rather than her father (whose “fault” it is, really). So she dislikes you and avoids engaging with you to make her boundaries clear - to her, you are not family. And while I see why that is not nice for you at all, it’s not really unreasonable for someone to have a boundary like that.
If this were my dd I’d love bomb her. Idk if this would be the correct thing for this situation. I would say something along the lines of : You were the adult and thought she needed space and hoped in time she would come around. You realise now you made a massive mistake. You want her to know you care deeply about her and would vet much like a different relationship with her. You are sorry if she is hurting and want her to know you’ll always be there for her if she needs anything. If she wouldn’t listen for long enough, send her an email or write it in a card. Do be prepared for her to scoff and show it to her friends. What does your dh say? He is very much responsible for this situation too.
I definitely felt very much not loved. At 16 I would love to have heard this from someone, anyone. You’re living on borrowed time though. Shortly she will be an adult and the conversation could be too late.
Hi I feel for you as us step parents generally can’t do right for doing wrong.
Lots of advice usually recommends ensuring there is 1 on 1 time with the parent but if not balanced I’m sure that through the child’s eyes this can be perceived as the step being at best distant ranging into stand offish and uncaring.
You’ve hit the nail on the head though. You are the adult and if you want change need to take the lead. I’d suggest as a mum and step mum to teenage girls that you need to be prepared for this to take time and you need to put in some effort. My experience is teenage girls can be stubborn but so can us mums and step mums!
Take some comfort, one word answers are not the prevail of step daughters only! Ask open questions, choose your timing carefully. Keep it all positive for a good while.
A very small step but what about watching something together on TV, maybe a box set, her pick, the 3 of you together so there is something to talk about and it becomes your thing? I watched some utter trash in the name of spending time with my daughters!
I normally wouldn’t recommend buying attention but if you do want to kick start and show a positive change in mindset what about picking something small up say a shampoo or make up etc and tell her you say this and thought of her....
If it were my daughter behaving like that towards her step father, yes, I would pull her up on that.
I would absolutely make a point of the fact that you don’t have to like someone but under my/his/our roof there are basic standards that have to be met. Say please and thank you, and make an effort in conversation - that means back and forth, both people contributing to the subject and making eye contact (that is so basic, it applies to everyone, not just step parents).
In my house, we are not rude to people, even when we can’t stand them.
and making eye contact (that is so basic, it applies to everyone, not just step parents).
I would argue strenuously that forcing eye contact is a very bad idea. Is there any context in which, "look at me while I'm talking to you" doesn't sound abusive? That would be entirely counterproductive.
Withdrawing eye contact is protective. Don't make someone fight against their instincts to protect themselves.
I wonder if she has pushed herself into this corner of not liking / hating / not caring about her DSM and acting it out. How do you fix it as the instigator without looking a bit stupid (why all these years?) or immature. She might not want to lose face.
I would think DH needs to change the dynamic by doing things together such as going to the cinema/ theatre/ try a new restaurant. Seems odd he has spent 10 years doing this special hobby with her alone.
Yes, I can think of contexts in which it is not abusive.
Softly and gently teaching and explaining good manners is something a parent should do.
Not making eye contact whilst in normal conversation is generally considered rude in the western world. Rude behaviour in children (including teenagers) should be corrected.
There is no need for a stroppy teenager to suddenly pretend that that her step mother is now her best friend. But eye contact is up there with please and thank you, basic courtesies people extend to one another to make communal living more bearable for all concerned.
I hated my DM asking me about school and what I'd been doing. It felt intrusive, and that was my DM!
I think you’re doing better than you realise- you read so many horror stories on here about step families.
When she is older she probably (hopefully) will respect you for allowing her that time with her dad without making it about you.
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