Guest Blogger: Jacquelyn B. Fletcher

Studies show that girls often exhibit more anxiety than boys do after a remarriage. This is an important fact for stepparents to keep in mind. While conducting interviews of stepmoms across the country, I was told more than once that stepmothers were concerned that instead of bonding over shared interests with their stepdaughters, they were in a competition for Dad’s attention and affection.

Girls, especially those who have been their father’s confidants, feel incredibly protective of their Dads. When a new stepmother enters the picture it can be scary for a daughter because she’s already lost time with him in a divorce. Now she must split the time she does get even further with a woman who is a relative stranger.

I know the feeling from both sides. I was a stepdaughter who felt jealous of my stepmother because I felt she was coming between my father and me. I am now a stepmother with two stepdaughters. And I have felt resentful of the time and attention they demanded from my new husband, especially in the early days of our marriage.

But there is an alternative to competition. Try practicing compassion with your stepdaughters and see what happens. E. Mavis Hetherington, the author of For Better or For Worse found that divorce often can be a powerful catalyst for personal growth for girls. We can help our stepdaughters become strong, emotionally intelligent women.

Here are some bonding techniques to try:

Give experiential gifts. Find out what your stepdaughter likes to do and do it together. Fifteen-year-old Bridget and her stepmother Jackie developed a close relationship by spending one-on-one time together. “Find something you both like to do together,” Bridget advises. “We both like coffee shops and movies.”

Avoid PDA. If your stepdaughters are adolescents this is particularly important. Keep the public displays of affection with their dad to a minimum because it makes a daughter feel uncomfortable.

Talk about difficult subjects. Try sitting down with your stepdaughter and telling her up front that you’re not there to take her father away from her. I did that early on with my stepdaughters and it helped because it allowed them to talk about their fears out loud.

Encourage friendship. Stepmothers are in the unique position of being a bit on the outside. Children often feel more comfortable talking to us about sensitive topics they wouldn’t bring up with a parent. Set aside the urge to parent her and become her friend instead.

Jacquelyn B. Fletcher is a stepmom of three kids, mom of one, and the author of A Career Girl’s Guide to Becoming a Stepmom (HarperCollins 2007). Find her blog at

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply