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Advice for dad with step teens

(35 Posts)
steveuk1979 Wed 11-Nov-20 09:47:36


I've been with my new partner for two years and started cohabiting at the start of the first lock down.

I see my own kids who are still in single digits 50% and my partner sees hers slightly less we try to encourage an overlap two weekends a month where we do something fun and all eat together. My prayers kids are very good with mine and no problems have arisen.

The reason for my post is that I find it difficult to form any sort of bond with my partners daughter. Her youngest. Her son who is nearly 16 is much easier despite the fact everything revolves around football of which I have no interest. Perhaps because my inner child reverts back to being 16 or possible because he's a boy I find it easier, but he does start conversations and ask me things. There is some shared interest in Xbox gaming. It was my passion before kids and of course he spends his spare time playing fifa.

I don't have anything in common with her daughter who is 13 apart from one thing. Cooking. I have no experience in how to talk to a 13 year old and I guess it saps my confidence. I try in fits and starts.

I am the cook in the house and enjoy doing it, my step daughter is a veggie and I always make a creative alternative to the main meal or sometime just make a vegetarian dish for us all. Prior to that she'd just have quorn sausages. I generally don't get any feed back, or a thanks even which disheartens me I have mentioned it to my partner who understands and has said she have a word. I've said don't. As I don't want to feel like I'm telling tales.

She often bakes, and I've offered to help. And also asked if she wants to help me. She doesn't. In fact the dialogue is basic at best. She can't even look at me when she says no.

Also when she has a question about life, history, science she will always ask her mum. If her mum said she didn't know, I'd pipe up and provide the answer. Which would be greeted with they recoil cringe wft do you know face kids do... so I've stopped doing it at all. I feel like a bit of an irrelevant spare part who just puts a roof over their heads and makes tea...

I know the majority of it is my own insecurities, inexperienced and lack of confidence so really any tips and advice would be greatly received.

In addition to this, when the two step siblings argue, fight as kids do, it intimidates me. I'm not a small guy, 6ft1 but I don't know how to tackle that either, I certainly don't feel comfortable telling them off... again any advice here too.

OP’s posts: |
steveuk1979 Wed 11-Nov-20 09:58:51

Just to add, she does really like sitting on the sofa with me and her mum watching a film and asking questions I wouldn't dare ask my parents at that age. My partner says she loves the fact she feels comfortable to do that as she'd never do it with her dad.

As you can imagine that conflicts with everything else in my head.

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MyCatHatesEverybody Wed 11-Nov-20 10:57:32

My DSCs are vegetarian and I would also go to a lot of trouble to make them creative meals that weren't just the usual basic quorn or pasta dishes. No verbal thanks, but now they're young adults and doing their own cooking I can tell they have more of an appreciation about the effort I put in back then. You have to think of yourself as playing the long game.

As a step parent you need to let go of any notions of expecting a reciprocal relationship with your DSC, it's not a linear thing where effort put in = relationship with DSC (whilst knowing it won't even be a possibility unless you put in that effort).

It doesn't sound like your DSD's attitude is personal to you which is a good thing. As long as she is not being actively rude to you I'd let your DSD take the lead. There was a recent thread here about whether step parents would miss their DSC if they split up from the parent - there were many more no replies than yes. The kind of give give give without getting much in return that you're describing is one of the reasons why step parenting is so hard. If you can go into it being content with making the effort because it's the right thing to do rather than hoping to build a bond then you might be ok. I didn't realise this until it was too late and I'm in counselling atm to help me deal with the falllout to my mental health.

MyCatHatesEverybody Wed 11-Nov-20 11:21:27

Btw just to clarify that a close and loving relationship with step children can and does happen. You just need to be prepared that it might not.

KylieKoKo Wed 11-Nov-20 13:19:46

I think it is pretty rude not to say thank you when someone cooks dinner for you, especially if it is a separate special meal. I am surprised her mum doesn't pull her up on that to be honest. It is just basic manners.

chocolatesaltyballs22 Wed 11-Nov-20 14:17:08

So this is not quite the same but I struggled with my stepsons in that I can't relate to boys - I only have a daughter, and the youngest just wants to talk about gaming which I have no knowledge of or interest in. I would also get annoyed when they appeared for dinner (which I had spent some time cooking), shovelled it down and disappeared without a word of thanks. My husband had a word with them and they are now much more polite. I don't think it would be telling tales for your partner to mention to. your SD that she should probably acknowledge the effort you've gone to and at least say thanks. She's probably just unthinking rather than rude, and maybe a bit awkward as teenage girls can be at that age.

2 years in of us all sharing a house I can't tell you that I magically have a great relationship with my stepsons because I don't - the truth is that the only thing we have in common is their dad. But we get along ok and as long as they are polite and well behaved I accept the relationship for what it is. I guess I'm just saying try not to expect too much.

Tiredoftattler Wed 11-Nov-20 14:17:54

To Kyliekoko:
The SD is part of the household. If the family meal is prepared for all members of the household, it should be the norm to prepare a vegetarian dish for the non meat eaters.
It is unfortunate that thought to variety seems to have only been given to variety when OP became the cook.
The fault was the mom's for not caring enough to provide variety in the meal preparation. Most kids expect meals to be provided more as a given than something for which the are appreciative. They expect to eat every day as a routine part of family life. Meals are not a big deal
; you eat every day much as you shower or go to school.
The SD does not appear to be rude or cruel. She seems to be more of a self-involved teenage girl.
She may just accept the OP as her mom's partner. That may be the extent of the bond that they share. They both love her mom and are going to be polite and civil to each other. This may change over time .
Who amongst us cannot live with polite civility?

If the unhappy postings on this forum are accurate, it seems that many step parents would be immensely grateful for polite civility.

Sometimes you just have to accept and be grateful for small blessings .

steveuk1979 Wed 11-Nov-20 15:51:41

I think that you always imagine some utopian harmony where everything's ace, everyone gets on really way and you have a perfect utopian life ever after... but in reality it's far from it. But your hopes and dreams still linger... after all it's only human.

The not saying tanks hurts, but I can understand and empathise now thanks to the responses and explanations. So thanks.

She can be a bit of a diva. And there have been instances where she's said something to me which I've considered hurtful, her mum laughs when she says it, and i respond. Please don't say things like that. You might think it's funny but actually it hurt me. I that example it did cause a bit of a rift. Mum sided with daughter, I felt hurt and like my feeling didn't matter, even when I was washing up and explaining to my parter why it was hurtful, SD (getting the lingo now) was stood behind me scoffing at me.

The incident was when my partners farther (bubble) came over and offered to pay for some electrical work we needed doing, I said that it was very kind to offer but not necessary. He kept insisting so I looked at my partner a couple of time and mouthed HELP. She just looked at me and didn't respond. I repeated it. She left me hanging in an awkward position.

Top and bottom is that when he left she said I was handling the situation fine and she can't talk to her dad about money so left me to it, though I felt extremely awkward and unsupported. She apologised. SD used the quite awkward and unsupported comment while talking about a conversation with her friend and said it in a piss taking way while looking at me.... you get the idea.

Slightly digressed but as someone said that is sounds like she's ok with me just a shy lass. My answer would be it depends... and stuff like the above makes me think she hates me which fules my anxiety...

OP’s posts: |
KylieKoKo Wed 11-Nov-20 16:29:37


My sds thank whoever makes the meal. We thank them if they make pudding, which they sometimes do. Dp and I thank each other. I was brought up say thank you to my mum to cooking.

Maybe it's just a different way of thinking but being appreciative when someone does something for you is the norm in my household.

MyCatHatesEverybody Wed 11-Nov-20 16:44:05

And there have been instances where she's said something to me which I've considered hurtful, her mum laughs when she says it, and i respond. Please don't say things like that. You might think it's funny but actually it hurt me. I that example it did cause a bit of a rift. Mum sided with daughter.

Unless you're unusually sensitive then further to your update I think you're in that classic scenario of having a DP problem not a DSD problem. The step parenting role brings its own unique dynamic and set of challenges and it's 100% crucial for the parent to be supportive of their partner in not tolerating disrespect from the DSC towards the step parent. The situation will only get worse not better unless she steps up and tbh if I were you I'd be rethinking your living arrangements and go back to dating if needs be run like the fucking wind

MyCatHatesEverybody Wed 11-Nov-20 16:49:13

@KylieKoKo see I wasn't brought up to thank my parents for cooking, dinner just appeared and that was that grin. I'd therefore have seen a step parent cooking for me in much the same way and it simply wouldn't have occurred to me that not thanking them could be perceived as rudeness.

In this particular case though I think OP has a problem regardless of what their family norm is.

steveuk1979 Wed 11-Nov-20 16:55:04

I can see both sides. I just wanted to use that as an example to highlight she's not a shy girl.

I can be sensitive... I came from a failed marriage where my ex wife would laugh at me and not validate any of my feelings amongst other crap. Another story, but I did seek out some counselling for my mental health after the marriage failed. Think that helps but you know, sometimes it comes to the surface.

My partner says my and her daughters humour are similar. This perhaps is true (piss takers) but to know when it's appropriate comes with maturity and knowing the person. My partner did understand my point and explain it to her daughter as to why I was upset. Which I suppose is better than nothing.

I do get your point re returning to the dating pool, I think if it becomes a commonplace thing then Ofcourse for my own well-being then I must.

Re manners, I have also been brought up to say please and thank you, and teach my children the same, sometimes they forget and sometime I don't notice they have. They are very young and still learning. I don't think I'd give a 13 year old the same latitude as a 4 year old SD or DD Regardless

OP’s posts: |
MyCatHatesEverybody Wed 11-Nov-20 17:23:28

I meant dating as in dating your current DP rather than finding someone new. I myself moved out the family home for a couple of years during a particularly rough patch with DSD (we get on fine nowadays).

Tiredoftattler Wed 11-Nov-20 17:45:11

The kinds in our home are polite and respectful, we say grace at mealtime. We do not expect the kids to say thanks for providing them their daily meal in the same way that we do not expect them to thank us for providing them with shelter. Food, housing, clothing, etc are the things that parents should provide.

We do not thank them for doing well in school. We expect that of them. We do acknowledge and congratulate them for special honors and awards. But, we do not want them to live with such a lowered bar that they think that normal everyday activities and expectations require thanks.

It sounds as though the OP does not feel appreciated, but maybe the people in his household have not yet learned his "language of appreciation." Much like a foreign language, we sometimes have to both teach and learn the love and appreciation languages that are to be used in our particular relationships.

The OP seems a bit needy in the way that comes from lacking confidence in your own adult role. With kids ,if you exude a lack of confidence, they often pickup on that and they in turn don't always know how to respond to you.

Give your situation time for a bond or relationship to evolve. Bonding and getting to know each other well can take time.

Magda72 Wed 11-Nov-20 18:28:29

@steveuk1979 I don't think you sound needy - you sound like someone who appreciates manners & who was brought up to believe in manners.
All families are different but I too was brought up to say thanks. My kids always thank me for dinner - this was never forced on them - it just came about naturally, probably because I have always thanked them (& others) for meals, housework, assistance etc.
@steveuk1979 - all my kids and I have an acerbic/black sense of humour which my exdp initially struggled to understand - he often thought I was being mean when I totally wasn't. However, I took on board what he said & we comprised - I agreed to tone my humour down & he agreed to not take comments to heart.
It sounds to me that you're not getting much agency in this relationship. You are entitled to feel how you feel & if you expect a certain level of civility in your home then it is up to your partner to ensure that she & her kids make a reasonable effort to help you feel comfortable, & for you to do vice versa.
Living arrangements are about compromise - not one party feeling ignored, unappreciated or not listened to.

SandyY2K Wed 11-Nov-20 21:20:02

As a child growing up I (and my siblings) always thanked whoever made dinner which was usually my the same way she would thank me for making her a cup of tea ...its common courtesy, but people are raised differently with different standards if behaviour and expectations.

My own DC say thanks when I cook a meal for comes naturally really....but it's basic manners. Just as you'd say thanks when a waiter/waitress brings your meal in a restaurant....I don't think...I'm paying so I don't need to say thank you.

It's my responsibility to cloth my children, that doesn't mean they shouldn't say thank you when I buy them a pair of jeans or any other item of clothing. Or if I give them money to buy clothes, I'd expect a thank you as common courtesy.

SandyY2K Wed 11-Nov-20 21:28:45

She can be a bit of a diva. And there have been instances where she's said something to me which I've considered hurtful, her mum laughs when she says it.

Your partner isn't supporting is she.
I find it annoying when people think something is funny or just a joke, yet it's not funny to the person who is the target...or who is the butt of the joke.

I can guarantee if you were a woman and this happened, you'd be told your DP doesn't have your back and to consider the relationship.

I'm not surprised you don't find it easy to get on with your SD...given everything you've said.

itsovernowthen Wed 11-Nov-20 23:18:17

Echoing others on here, you have a DP problem, not a DSD problem.

I've found that the key to being a successful SP, and having a good relationship with the DSC boils down to how much the person in common facilitates, supports and encourages the relationship across, and between, the two of you. They also need to create strong boundaries between their exDP and your family.

For you that person would be your DP. Your DP laughing along when SD is making you the butt of her jokes doesn't sound particularly supportive. I would discuss how these types of things make you feel and see what her response is or alternatively just run away now.

Gem176 Thu 12-Nov-20 07:35:13

@steveuk1979 I'm not a step parent but at one time I was the 13 year old SD. With hindsight I was a complete cow to my step dad. It wasn't anything awful just avoiding him, not thanking him for effort, highlighting anything negative about him in my mind while completely ignoring his positives and I probably made some cutting comments. I regret it all now as I now love him as much as a biological parent, he is grandad to my dd and I genuinely do think the world of him. His sons now joke with me that I'm his favourite child.

I'm not going to excuse you SDs behaviour but there are a few factors that could be at play.

1. The raging ball of hormones that 13 year old girls are.
2. How her dad is? Mine wasn't great after the divorce and I felt a loyalty to him and seeing stepdad happy with my mum and me liking stepdad felt disloyal to my dad.
3. How long it's been since her mum and dad split. It's quite a big thing to get your head around and even if it happens when you are young you have to get your head around it again as you mature. The realisation that you can get married, have kids etc and then it can all still fall apart is a big reality check and that the fairy tales we have been told for years are just that, fairy tales.
4. Is she scared of getting attached to you in case you and her mum split?

I'm not sure if any of this applies but thought you might like to hear another perspective. There is also the ray of light that step families do work and in 17 years you may well have a SD who loves you and grandkids who have known you as nothing other than grandad.

Music and films were our common ground but after trying to push common ground for a while he took a step back and let me come to him. I swear he has every rock album ever made and my first iPod was filled with his albums that I uploaded old school 😂

Hope it all works out for you guys 😊

Tiredoftattler Thu 12-Nov-20 12:49:05

To Gem176:
Your posting illustrated how relationships can and do evolve and develop over time. Teenage girls can be self-absorbed and challenging.

In our house, every day courtesy is common place, but the kids do not thank us for meals. They may acknowledge that a dish was exceptionally good , but there is not usually any thanks for the meal.

As a hobby, I collect children's books. A few weeks ago, my soon to be 16 year old SD, brought me a book that her gran had given to her for her 10 th birthday. She was rummaging through her things and came across the book. She said that as she reread the book it reminded her of me. The book was Marlo Thomas' Free to Be You and Me. The book is a favorite of mine and one that I give to all of the young girls in my family.

Is was thrilled. She did not make a big production of giving me the book. It was just a moment between the 2 of us, but it said more than a million thanks for the meal could ever say.

Kids give thanks and show appreciation in many different ways. You cannot always prescribe the way ; you can only be open to recognizing and accepting of their language and ways of expression.

We do what we do out of care and concern for them not because we expect or demand reciprocation.
in Gems case it seems that patience and tolerance on her step father's part and time and maturity on her part allowed a warm and caring relationship to evolve.

You cannot whip up a bond or warm relationship in the same way that you can whip up a good meal. Be patient and give more and expect less. Some of the best returns on investments take longer to yield.

steveuk1979 Fri 13-Nov-20 10:59:46

Thanks for all the tips and suggestions. They are all very helpful.

I appreciate people are brought up differently but please and thank you not being taught or expected baffle me. With the greatest of respect, how is a child supposed to navigate the complexities of saying thanks at an appropriate time if it's not taught as basic gratitude at home? Do they not say thanks for a birthday present because it's 'expected' I firmly believe it's the parents job to teach manners as default so it can be applied in life generally.

@Gem176 thanks for your comments specifically. First hand experience gives a great insight. To answer some of your questions.

Her dad is in her life, like me has the family home my partner left and she prefers to be there. He and my partner split 7 years ago and she had a two year relationship with someone else before meeting me two years ago. It's possible she saw this fail also and worries about us splitting.

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TicTacTwo Fri 13-Nov-20 11:35:17

I'm a mum to a 14yo and this advert really resonated with me

It sounds like you're making lots of effort with her. I would gently tease her when no thank you is forthcoming (it sounds like your family is very chill)

MyCatHatesEverybody Fri 13-Nov-20 12:49:09

I appreciate people are brought up differently but please and thank you not being taught or expected baffle me.

See my parents saw mealtimes the same as giving us a bath or taking us to school, just an everyday thing that needed doing as a parent therefore no thanks required from us DC. If someone else had cooked (like at a friend's house) I'd have thanked them.

However I don't think it's unreasonable for your DP to ask DSD to thank you for cooking as you're NOT her parent so anything you do for her is a favour. Or just stop cooking for her.

steveuk1979 Fri 13-Nov-20 13:41:20

I guess it's the way your brought up which everyone is entitled to to as they see fit. If I'd of never said please or thank you to my parents, I'd of not got what I asked for or got a clip round the ear for not using manners. And I'm thankful they taught me that lesson at home.

Even now, an adult myself and if I went to my mothers of tea, I would say thank you. Yes she's still my parent but doesn't have a duty to feed me any more, she be doing it because she wanted to or cared and for that I would be great full. Why not say thanks?

@Gem176 also my SD dad has been single since the split with my DP 7 years ago... this may also play into it.

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steveuk1979 Fri 13-Nov-20 13:44:06

@TicTacTwo great advert, does really strike a chord. Just a same it features a junk food outlet grin

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