If your stepdaughter is jealous of your relationship with her dad, she may be dealing with insecurities, fear, and anxiety that her father has replaced her or the guilt associated with the perceived betrayal of her mother if she forms a relationship with you. Developing a secure bond with her and respecting her relationship with her dad is vital.
Coming into a family as a step-parent can be very daunting and the stereotyped step-parent-as-the-enemy trope has harmed the idea of blended families. So what do you do if your stepdaughter is jealous of your relationship with her dad?
Why would your stepdaughter be jealous of your relationship with her dad when your relationship is very different from theirs? This might be a mind-boggling thought, but there are many reasons why a child may struggle to deal with these emotions. Gaining insight into what is normal, what to expect, and how to mitigate the issue will help you deal with this dilemma.
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Why Is My Stepdaughter Jealous Of My Relationship With Her Dad?
There is nothing easy about merging two families and, when you are in a relationship with someone with children, the challenges can be expounded. Jealousy and other negative behaviors towards you can be symptoms of emotional challenges for your stepdaughter, most of which is expected in this situation.
It’s important to remember that when merging two families in this way, there will generally be a period of adjustment where everyone is trying to get used to ‘the new normal’. Besides this, it is also a process of getting to know one another and learning to trust each other. The ups and downs of this phase are routine, but helping you to understand why your stepdaughter feels the way she does may help.
Some of the reasons why your stepdaughter may be acting out include the following:
It is often complicated for children to see one parent move on with another person, and it is common in these instances to see jealousy as a result. Remember that not only do they have to deal with breaking up their core unit, but they may feel their loyalty is being called into question if they like you as the new partner.
Very often, step-children prevent themselves from connecting with new partners because they deem it to be a betrayal of their mother, who was in a relationship with their father first. Based on this misplaced loyalty, they could often feel jealousy toward the new partner. This may be compounded if their mother has not moved on and remains wounded by the end of the relationship with their father.
A great deal of fear may also be present – fear of letting a new person into their lives, fear that they will be replaced or seen as less significant, or fear that they will simply be forgotten. It has often been said that children in these situations fear their parents will leave them or “end things” with them, as had happened with their spouses when someone new comes along.
Mourning the loss of a family unit is something that does need to be taken seriously, especially in younger children. They may struggle to understand why they are in such pain while their father has moved on and is happy. This can translate to jealousy towards you and your role in their grief.
The thought of having to share their father with yet another female may cause extreme stress for your stepdaughter. There are now at least three parties all vying for her dad’s attention, and this can be particularly difficult for a young girl who feels threatened by your position in her dad’s life.
It may feel like she needs to compete for her dad’s affections since you are a newcomer in their lives who he is now lavishing his time and love on. This can be even more severe if she isn’t living with you and only gets to see her dad sometimes.
While all these reasons are valid for why your stepdaughter could be acting jealously towards you, it doesn’t mean it has to stay this way. These issues must be addressed if you want a healthy family unit.
Related Reading: Tips for Co-Parenting as a Step-Mom
What Is Normal and What Isn’t?
It’s vital that you remember, in this situation, that your stepdaughter has a right to feel her emotions especially when she has had no input or control into the decision which resulted in the splitting up of her parental unit. It is normal for her to feel upset about the breakdown in her family and even to feel upset about you as the new person in her father’s life. This can be especially true if you are the first person whom her father dated after the breakup.
Remember that these big feelings can be overwhelming for your stepdaughter, who may not even realize what she is doing. It may not even be something she is aware of, and she may have no idea why she is feeling the way she is. As difficult as it is for you, remember that she is the one carrying the brunt of the emotional fallout of her parent’s divorce, something you didn’t have to experience and are, in fact, benefitting from.
That being said, there are some cases where acting out has become problematic, despite your best efforts as the new partner to mitigate it. If you find that you have done everything from your side and there still is no improvement, there is no shame in seeking counseling as a family unit.
How to Help Stepdaughters Who Are Jealous
Knowing some of the reasons why your stepdaughter may be experiencing jealousy can help you take steps towards solving the problem. The overarching themes, in this case, are to build a trusting relationship between you and her and to show her you are in support of her having a good relationship with her father.
Children who feel secure in their relationships are less likely to act out and more likely to approach their parents when they are feeling overwhelmed. Here are some practical tips for how this may look in real-life situations:
Tips For Improving the Relationship
- Allow space and time: Respect that your stepdaughter needs time and space to heal, but also respect that this includes alone time with her father. Any feelings of insecurity can be alleviated by showing overt support for a good relationship between her and her father and ensuring that you, as the partner, don’t inadvertently act jealously towards the time they spend together.
- Be understanding and accepting of your role: Remember that you are a step-parent and your position is not to take over from either parent or replace the child’s mother. It is not a competition, and you should not be vying for that position – open discussions with your stepdaughter about her expectations of a step-parent can be beneficial in this way.
- Take time together: Plan out time to be with your stepdaughter where the two of you can bond and learn more about one another. You will both benefit from learning to trust each other. A secure bond is the first step towards open and honest communication about feelings, and your stepdaughter will feel seen and heard.
- Empower and support their dad: The onus here is also on your partner – jealousy as a result of insecurity must also be eased by your stepdaughter’s dad, who actively takes on the role of reassuring her through time, effort, and honest conversations. He must also be aware that his actions can be construed as choosing sides, and while it is challenging to manage, he will have to be consistent in his love and affection for you both.
While a father-daughter relationship is vastly different from yours with her father, your stepdaughter is likely still feeling insecure about your presence in their lives. This may be due to fear or anxiety about building a relationship with you against her mother’s wishes or because she is afraid her father values you more highly than her.
The best way to deal with these issues is to present a united front with her father, be supportive of their unique relationship without you, and build a trust bond with her.