Your Questions Answered: Stepmoms who have Stepmoms

14 07 2009

Hi Jacque!

I’m an adult stepkid and also a stepmom. My question is about my stepkid relationship. When I call my Dad and stepmom to say hello and plan a short visit, there is always underlying tension. And being a stepmom myself, I’m very respectful of my stepmom’s feelings of (un-stated) stress around the visit. So I respectfully tip-toe through the conversation.

As a stepmom, I don’t want to put my stepson through this awkward situation when he’s older. And as a stepkid, I’m curious how other adult stepkids work around this. Does anyone have advice for smooth navigation?

I guess I should mention that the trip to see my Dad and stepmom is a 3-hour drive… so it includes an overnight stay.

What a fantastic question! Thanks for sending it in. As a stepmom and stepdaughter myself I can completely relate. I’ll tell you my thoughts on this topic but please, if any of you reading this have ideas to share, please do! The more wisdom we can gather for each other, the better. In the meantime, here’s my two cents:

  • If possible don’t triangulate the relationship. You won’t know why there is underlying tension from your stepmother unless you ask her. Instead of going through your father,  try having an open discussion with her directly about what you could do to help make visits less stressful for everyone. Approach the issue as one adult to another. (This is not always easy or possible to do.)
  • Let go of your own need to please. If your stepmother is tense and unwilling to talk to you about it at all or without a fight, then the issue is hers to deal with. Unfortunately, an unhappy stepmother affects everyone. You’ll have to do what you need to do to make your own family feel comfortable. For instance, I’m assuming that you stay at your father’s house when you visit. Perhaps instead of staying at their house, you could book a night at a nearby hotel.
  • Ask them to visit you. Space can be a touchy issue. Sometimes if you change up the location of family visits, it can help change the tone of an event. You can ask them to visit you or meet somewhere in the middle in a place that doesn’t have any emotional baggage connected with it.
  • Be a good house guest.When we are children, relationships are mandatory in most cases. When we’re adults, we get to choose who we will spend our time with–and that includes choosing whether or not we will connect as adults with our parents and stepparents. Make sure if you are staying with your parents that you help out. Offer to pay for groceries, show up with a bottle of wine, ask if you can help sweep the floor or take the garbage out. Your stepmother probably has a certain way she runs her household and as adult stepchildren we need to respect those boundaries even if stepmom and dad are living in our childhood home.
  • Have an open door policy. As for your own stepson, the best way to make him feel relaxed about visits to your house as an adult is to make him feel welcome. If you’ve taken over his childhood room and turned it into a den, make sure to at least have a bed made up where he can sleep when he arrives. Plan dinners and activities together so you can spend time getting to know each other as adults. And just like when he was a minor, find ways that he can spend alone time with both you and his dad so you can all bond one-on-one.

Couples with Adult Children

14 07 2009

Ladies, the talented stepfamily coach Yvonne Kelly has teamed up with colleague Sheena Berg to create another free Step Dating teleseminar. It’s coming up fast on July 16 from 9:00-10:30 p.m. EST. Here’s what Yvonne says about it:

“With the increase of Baby-Boomers back on the dating scene today, more couples are finding themselves trying to navigate the turbulent waters of dating amid the concerns and objections of their adult children.

Many couples assume that dating when their children are independent or when their partner’s children are adults, will be smooth sailing and far less complicated than if the children were young and still living with them — unexpectedly, this is often not the case.

The unanticipated challenges are what usually trip people up and create unnecessary friction for the step dating couple. When people have an understanding of what to expect going in, they increase their chances of relationship success dramatically.”

To learn more about the seminar visit If you can’t make it at that date and time there will be a recording available afterward.