• What Does Your Stepdaughter Really Think of You?

    From the wicked stepmothers of famous fairy tales, to the stepmothers of modern television and film, pop culture has been less than kind to the stepmother figure. With press like that, it is no wonder that soon-to-be second wives often fret more about step-motherhood than wedding planning.

    For many women, navigating the relationship with their new stepdaughter can be more nerve wracking than figuring out the first years of marriage. If you're like the scores of non-wicked stepmothers I know, you too probably wonder if your stepdaughter casts you as the villain or ally in her fairy tale.

    There is more to the story. The stepdaughter will have complicated, mixed feelings about you. She's suspicious of you. Writing to you as a stepdaughter myself, I have to admit that it's difficult to ignore all the evil stepmother folklore. My father re-married when I was ten years old and, though I was pretty crazy about my stepmother-to-be, I couldn't help but harbor certain doubts before they said their "I do's." Will she be too strict with me? Will Dad ignore me when she's around? Will she try to replace my mother?

    Don't let these doubts she may be feeling dismay you. It's helpful to understand these feelings of suspicion and keep them in mind when difficult situations arise between you and your stepdaughter. Cinderella's evil stepmother certainly wasn't known for empathy; knowing her suspicions will help you cope with the initial stages of your relationship with her. She's nervous around you. In addition to your stepdaughter's natural suspicions about you, she most likely experiences moments of anxiety and insecurity over your interactions.

    Just as you wonder whether she is judging you, your stepdaughter worries about how you view her. While she can depend on her mother or father's abiding love and esteem, it is difficult to trust the affections of someone who arrived late on the scene. Because unconditional love is not a guarantee from a stepparent, your stepdaughter likely harbors subconscious fears that you may dislike or reject her, or potentially divide her from her biological parent.

    Overcoming these nerves takes time, a good way to start the process is to focus on affirming her and let her parents handle the discipline and constructive criticism. Emphasize what you admire and appreciate about your stepdaughter and it will ease her insecurities. She's curious about you, despite looks of apathy. You are a mysterious, new woman in your stepdaughter's life with a world of stories, experiences, opinions, and ideas that she is probably curious about. This can be difficult to detect because many times, as a defense mechanism, she may hide her curiosity and instead appear apathetic or even critical.

    Don't be fooled. Beneath your stepdaughter's apparent hostility or skepticism, and the barrier she may have put up, she may be more open to you if there's the right opportunity. Show her warmth and patience and you will prove that you are trustworthy and approachable, leaving the door open for her to see that you're no fairy tale foe. Depending on her level of fear and anxiety, cultivating a loving and mutual relationship with your stepdaughter may be a gradual process, but it is, in fact, very possible.

    Initiate one-on-one time with your stepdaughter and provide a safe space for her to get to know you. Stop wondering what your stepdaughter thinks about you and start shaping your relationship by understanding yours and her own fears, and focusing on affirmation for both of you.

    by Rebecca
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    I joined SWC in 1999 because I felt like nobody understood what I was going through as a new stepmom.


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