Hi Rene:

I need some advice and I hope you can help! I’ve been married eight years and have a 26-year-old stepson, a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old stepdaughter. A bit of background: My husband and I met when my stepdaughter was five and he raised her until her mother (who lived out of town at the time) wanted him to do something for her (there was a dispute over money I believe). She would come visit, take the daughter and would not let him have her back until he gave her what she wanted. When I came into the picture I told him she couldn’t do that anymore. Needless to say the mother cannot stand me (nor I her, cause she’s not a good mother).

Anyway years pass (and we are from a small town so the legal system sucks!) and we’ve jumped through hoops, social studies, money we did not have to spend on court trying for full custody, only to end up with a judgment of joint custody! To sum it up you can’t talk to the mother, ask her for anything; she is very mean and a real bi/&*! The stepdaughter is now 13 and I love her very much as if she were mine!!

I started hearing rumors last year (when she was 12) that she was sexually active with three or four guys! I confronted her mother about this and of course nothing was done! I checked text messages, computer just trying to find out what was going on. But I’m hearing some awful things about her promiscuity!

You can’t do or say anything to her mother and on her weeks she lets my stepdaughter go to guys’ houses, etc. She just doesn’t care or listen! My husband doesn’t want to do anything because it’s a waste since we have our own rules here but over there she is a trashy slut! The more I hear rumors and see her text messages, the more I don’t want her around me! She is a lying, sneaky kid that does everything and anything with guys? Can you give me some advice? She is so much better than that. She is a good kid but I am tired of fighting a losing battle.


Signed: Worried Stepmom

Dear Worried Stepmom,

This is situation critical and something needs to be done RIGHT NOW! I’m going to be really frank here; everyone needs to stop using this child as a pawn in the fight for their own fiefdoms and see her for what she is, someone who’s in desperate need of some guidance and tough love. So here’s what I think you need to do.

TEASE OUT YOUR FEELINGS FOR THE MOM FROM THOSE OF THE DAUGHTER: There’s a lot of anger there, I can hear it in your writing. I can’t say that I blame you; the mother did some pretty despicable stuff. But that’s in the past and you guys need to figure out a way to move forward. Sometimes it’s hard being the only adult (figuratively) in the room and it sucks that you may have to take on a disproportionate amount of the work and responsibility. But I have little faith that it will be done by the girl’s mother. So the options are, you (and your husband!) do it or it doesn’t get done. If it doesn’t get done, I can assure you there’s some bad stuff on the horizon.  You cannot save the mother nor does she want that. But your actions will not be wasted on your stepdaughter. Put your focus there.

GET HER TO A DOCTOR, ASAP! And follow that up with a therapist. I am not saying that to be funny, this is of paramount importance. If you think or suspect she is having sex, she not only needs to be on birth control, she also needs to have a frank discussion about sexually transmitted diseases. This kid’s been through a lot (being used as a hostage for her mother’s demands among other things) and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see this is acting out at it’s finest. She needs to talk to someone who will listen and then empower her with coping skills.

YOUR HUSBAND MUST GET INVOVLED: If he doesn’t make some decisions, decisions will be made for him and that is never fun. I’m not a psychologist or a father but this early promiscuity seems like a cry for attention from her dad; I suspect our Good Enough Guy will agree. Fathers are revered by their children. Where mom can be persuaded, what dad says typically goes. It is THAT power that your husband needs to wield with your stepdaughter. This is no time for a hands-off, it-will-work-itself-out approach. He needs to get in there and be an active part of the solution.

A few things before I go. As I said, for your stepdaughter’s sake and your own mental health you need to stop seeing your stepdaughter as an extension of her mother. Work on ways to communicate with her that involve less yelling and more listening. That does not mean being a pushover and she still has to toe the line but it does mean showing her that you love and respect her enough to listen.

The one other thing I would suggest, as hard as this may be to do, is to have a meeting with the girl’s mother. I think she loves her daughter, though she may show it in ways different than you or I would. But you need to appeal to her, to that part of her heart and come up with ways that you all can keep this kid swerving off into the danger zone. It’s not too late but you must act now.

 Good luck!

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