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Counseling/Step Grand Daughter


QUESTION: Our new step daughter moved in with our son one year before they married. She has a daughter 7. Our grandson is 12 next month and granddaughterwill be 9. They were abandoned by their mother and lived with my husband and I for over a year. We tried 9 weekends keeping the 7 year old step grandchild to be. She did nothing we asked and tattled on our grandchildren constantly and left us drained. I am 60 and my husband 64. We have said we will treat her and her half brother the same as our grandchildren at family gatherings and take her on short outtings. Our son has admitted his step daughter has issues. The court placed her half brother with his father except for 3 weekends monthlly. The mother lets her wear any of my granddaughter's clothes and my granddaughter only has one small box that is "do not touch". The mother sells clothes I give the girls before they out grow them, has kept my grandchildren's birthday money and sold their electronic games. Now our son has given her the authority to keep our children from coming to see us because her daughter won't mind us. She and our son poo-pooed every thing we told them about the child's behavior. Any advice?

ANSWER: Hi - From your description, your son has married a psychologically-wounded woman, which means he may be wounded also:

He appears to be caught in a loyalty conflict between her and you two seniors, and is tacitly or openly siding with her.

Have you been able to tell him clearly how his wife's behavior is affecting you seniors, and what you need?

I'm guessing you adults may not have studie3d much about stepfamily realities. For all your sakes, I encourage you to read and discuss at least these:  //  //  //  //

The best all you adults can do for your several generations is study and discuss this free online "lesson" on evolving a healthy multi-home stepfamily. The next best option is to hire a veteran stepfamily therapist.

This is a LOT to absorb, Delores. If you have further questions, please ask!

Compassionately, Pete

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: First of all thank you for your reply. I have read everything you have written and viewed all your videos. I think your work is amazing. I have communicated to our son what we want and what we are able to give in this relationship. Our older son, who is highly functional and has always been able to delay his gratification to make wise decisions, believes all this is much our fault for never making this son face the consequences of his bad decisions. The younger son did not want to parent his children while he was single and is now using them as a pawns to gain power to use us financially and for free babysitting of the step daughter at his convenience. My husband has never stood with me on any boundary we set with this son. My husband always caves. I do not know how it has happened, but our younger son has no empathy for me or his father. My grandchildren are really hurting being kept away from all their family. My son has no empathy for his children or the fact that I am dealing with end of life care for a very demanding and sick mother which limits severely limits what I am able to give at this time.
Thank you for your dedication to a great cause.

Thanks for your feedback, Delores. Summarily, I encourage you mates to adopt this priority as a team (1) your individual wholistic health and healing; (2) your marriage; and (3) everything and everyone else. As you do your version of this, refer often to the Serenity Prayer:

Overall, do what you can to Break the Cycle:

I wish you all well - Pete


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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about mood disorders, depression, suicide, relationships, communication skills, problem solving, clear thinking, bonding disorders, trauma recovery, addiction management, grieving, shame, guilt, fear, reality distortion, and trust disorders; courtship, family functioning, "problem kids," mediation, (re)marriage, divorce, stepfamilies, stepparenting, boundaries, self-neglect, abuse, parental neglect, personality subselves, ("parts work"). I cannot answer legal or medical questions.


I maintained a private therapy practice near Chicago for 27 years, and have worked with over 1,000 men, women, couples, and families on a wide range of personal and family problems. I have been in personal recovery from growing up in an alcoholic family since 1986, and have worked with five therapists to heal my own psychological wounds. I maintained a "warm (phone) line" for callers on the topics above for 20 years, and have taught over 200 seminars and classes in midwestern universities, churches, support groups, and schools since 1981. I have practiced internal-family therapy ("parts work") with trauma-recoverers since 1991.

National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council; Compassion and Choices, and Final Exit Network

# Several hundred articles in my non-profit "Break the Cycle!" Web site at These articles are augmented by over 150 educational YouTube videos .

# six books on childhood-trauma recovery, effective communication, and stepfamily courtship, coparenting, and management.

A bachelors degree in mechanical engineering (BSME, 1959) from Stanford University, a Masters degree in clinical Social Work, (MSW, 1981), and over 500 hours of post-grad training in the topics above - including clinical hypnosis, spirituality, codependence, addicrtion-management, and guided imagery. My post-grad traning includes two 9-month internships on doing internal-family therapy at the University of Illinois.

Awards and Honors
Hundreds of grateful emails and comments from students and clients all over the world.

Past/Present Clients
Over 1,000 average Midwestern-US women, men, couples, and families. A physical disability limits me to doing telephone and Skype counseling now.

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