Dear Grandma Maggie,
I just got married to my wife recently. She has a two year old daughter from another man, who doesn’t pay child support. He gets supervised visits with his daughter every week, under supervision of my wife’s parents, but only shows up once a month. My step-daughter and I get along great except once a month after she sees her dad. I don’t know if it’s him or maybe my in-laws who are telling her that she doesn’t have to listen to me, but it is starting to become a problem for both my wife and me. As a new parent I am confused as to what to do. I don’t want to confuse my step-daughter, but I also want her to listen to me. I love her and my wife, and I really don’t know what to do!
I doubt at the age of two if your step daughter can absorb all that is going on. Your job as one the major adults in her life is to assure her that the adults set limits. Along with those limits comes an immense amount of love. If you get along great except for the times she sees her father, then you are really ahead of the game. If I were you I would be prepared, but not necessarily expecting it to be, a tad more difficult after she sees him. If she acts up at those times it could be many things. It could be words she hears from other adults that she doesn’t understand. It could be the scare that if one daddy left, maybe you will do the same, so she pulls back each time she sees her biological father. It really doesn’t matter the cause. Your job is to do damage control and parent in your own way. Love her when she comes back and gently set limits.
When I had my day care and dealt with kids this age, one of the phrases I found very effective, was, “In this house we………” then fill in your own blank. It works equally well with “In this house we don’t…….” That way you are stressing your values and yet not knocking her other family, which is really part of her, no matter how you or your wife feel. Always take the high road. Kids grow up and they become young adults. They have excellent memories and they know who was there for them. Time is on your side.