Parenting Stepchildren/my Stepson


I've been married to my husband for 2 years now and he has a son who is now 6, and I have been in my SS's life for a little over 2 years. My SS's mother doesn't like me because she always thought that she could get back with my husband and now that it's serious between us she has been retaliating.

In the first year we would pick him up and he would spend every weekend and the entire summer with us. He was always clingy to his dad and anytime we are all together he has to be in the middle of us or he gets mad(in the bed, on the couch..etc) If his dad even just touches me he gets mad( forget about holding hands, that's out of the question). When it's me alone with the child he is all over me and always playing, he used to call me mommy, but my husband didn't like that so he yelled at him so now he's back to calling me my first name. When he is alone with his father he acts normal and just keeps normal human space and plays games and always tells his dad what toys or games he wants and eventually he will get everything he wants. My husband feels his son should have everything he wants. He wants his son to feel like because his daddy is not with his mommy doesn't mean he is different or not special.

Now since he's been back to school my SS's mother doesn't want my SS around me anymore. My husband has to go and spend time with his son at her house, he can't bring him to our house.(so she can be with him too) Also now she is saying that my SS is saying to her that he doesn't want me around, he just wants to be with his dad alone.

A few times he has come to our house this year(his dad brought him without telling the mother) and my SS said to me that he knows that he's not supposed to be there but he won't tell his mom and he also says to me that he wishes I could go to his birthday party which was about to pass, but he said he knew that his mother doesn't allow me near him.( so she is definitely talking about me to their son, or he is hearing it)
So it makes me wonder if she is just making up that my SS says he doesn't want me around or if he really said that. I haven't seen him in over 6 months now(the last time he came to our house she found out and hasn't let him go anywhere since)

I feel like he is just a child and if we ask him his answer might not be genuine, maybe he will say he doesn't want to be around me because he sees the trouble it causes and maybe his mother told him if your dad asks you, tell him yes, or maybe he will say no because he doesn't want to hurt anyone. Either way i have a feeling that if he does say he wants to be only with my husband that my husband will do whatever my SS says. My husband is a big pushover and anyone or anything that makes him feel like he is not being #1 dad he will instantly do whatever it is he is being asked.(like for instance not too long ago my SS was sick and he lives a nice drive away from us. So my SS's mother calls my husband right after we got off work and says that he has to take his son to the doctor around and he told her he was tired and needs to get some rest because that's a long drive to make on no sleep and also she wants him to come alone( without me) and then stay at her apartment until she comes home. So she starts saying he is a bad father and that's his son( it's always "his" son when she needs something, but no "his" son when he wants to make decisions for his child) and so he goes.

Correct me if I'm wrong but If it's such an emergency to go to the doctor why isn't she taking him? why is she going to make my husband drive all that distance when she is right there and can take him? I don't have any kids but if my child was in need of urgent care I would rush him myself, not have someone who lives far away come do it for me. Not to mention that her whole family lives close to her so even if she couldn't someone else could. She says oh that's your son you should come and take him, you don't care about him. But if I don't go with him sometimes he's too tired to drive and he risks falling asleep behind the wheel. A lot of times me and him switch and take turns, but since she doesn't want me there he tells me to stay home to prevent problems (she's already threatened me 3x telling me not to come around). I think if she needs him to pick up his son or go to an appointment it should be coordinated not at the last minute and if he can't make it then it shouldn't lead to a fight between them(a few times she said she needed him to pick up their son and she said " don't bring her" and he said he was going to so she said " forget it, I'll take him myself". My husband thinks I don't understand because I don't have any kids, I think I can see things clearer then he can because I am standing from a distance watching it all. We are all VERY stressed.

Please tell me what we need to do about the way his son acts when he's around us, and about the situation with the child's mother, and also the way my husband lets his son be in charge of "his time", and what to do if his son says he doesn't want to be around me.

Hello Marie,

Thank you for reaching out. What your stepson is experiencing is called "divided loyalty". In cases of divided loyalty, it is common for children to offer responses to the adult's in his life that will be pleasing to the adult that he is interacting with at the time, in an effort not to hurt the adult, be pleasing to the adult, and to foster a sense of security.

The frustrations you have with relationship to your spouse and his reactions to his son are also normal and expected int he blended family. When the time is right, and your spouse is able to be receptive (pick a time when you are not angry, or have high emotions) let him know how you are feeling. When speaking to him, be sure to speak with your end goal in mind. Is it to foster an understanding of how he will interact with you? Is the conversation goal to come up with a plan for care for your stepson. Be mindful not to be accusatory in your talk, and use "I" messages when you are speaking. For more information on "I" messages you can get a free e-book at

Do your best to put aside your emotional responses and try to foster a unique relationship with your stepson. Have fun with him, and spend time with him as allowed that is positive. If his son continues to "not want to be around you", you can try to do some things your stepson enjoys with him, or spend time with your stepson and his father so that your stepson can learn to enjoy your company.

It is not unusual for biological parents to point out that a stepparent "does not understand" because they do not have children of their own. Try not to get upset by this fact, but instead try to join with your spouse in being understanding of his position in the blended family situation. You will find that being understanding goes a longer way than imposing the responsibility on others to understand.

Take Care.  

Parenting Stepchildren

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KaRae' Carey, PhD


I can answer questions that pertain to challenges stepparents face, as well as challenges with adjustment and integration of the stepfamily. I can answer questions about psychological, emotional, and social changes that affect adults and children in stepfamilies. I can answer questions that have to do with the emotional and psychological impact of stepfamilies pertaining to child support, visitation, or divorce.


I am a stepmother to one boy and one girl. I have been in their lives since they were about 8 years old. I have first-hand "real life" experience with 'baby mama drama' and strains in marriage due to the complications and challenge that being a new stepmother presented. Bio: Inspired and motivated by her experiences as both a stepdaughter and stepmother of two children, Dr. Carey founded the Triangle Stepfamily Institute and is committed to empowering stepfamilies. She has first-hand experience both personally and professionally, with the difficulties people may experience when adjusting to stepfamily life. Dr. Carey believes that with the right support, and armed with knowledge, living harmoniously within a stepfamily is possible. She has dedicated countless hours to understanding the delicate functioning of the stepfamily and has produced several articles related to stepfamily relationships and functioning. Dr. Carey has studied with research pioneers and clinical leaders in the field of stepfamily life. She has also conducted independent research about stepfamilies with a focus on the concerns of the stepmother. She has also earned certification as a stepfamily counselor. Dr. Carey has also earned seven specialty certifications. Dr. Carey’s specialty certifications include being a nationally certified professional counselor, an accredited clinical supervisor, a credentialed distance counselor, board certified health services professional, school guidance counselor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and a certified stepfamily counselor. For more information on services, or to request Dr. Carey for counseling, interviews, or speaking opportunities, please contact her through her web site, or by calling 919-454-7857.

National Association of Professional Women American Counseling Association Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina

Publications, expert author

Oakland University, Rochester, MI Ph.D. in Counselor Education 2009 Dissertation: “The Experience of the African American Stepmother: An Exploratory Investigation ” Honors: Dissertation nominated for 2010 Outstanding Humanistic Dissertation Award Cognate Concentrations: Child and Adolescent Mental Health & School Guidance Counseling Major Advisor: Robert Fink, PhD Madonna University, Livonia, MI M.S. in Clinical Psychology 2002 Madonna University, Livonia, MI B.S. Psychology 2000 Cartified Stepfamily Counselor, Stepfamily Foundation, 2011 • Licensed Professional Counselor, State of North Carolina, (6893) • National Certified Counselor, NBCC, (234907) • Credentialed Distance Counselor, CCE, (966) • Approved Clinical Supervisor, CCE, (ACS01058) • Board Certified Health Services Professional, CCE, (1472) • Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist- Provisional- State of North Carolina • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work, State of Michigan, (6802084095) • Limited Licensed Psychologist, State of Michigan, (6301012018) • Social Worker Registration, State of Michigan, (6803075415) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of Michigan, (SC000554) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of North Carolina, (XXXXX2200)

Awards and Honors
•Kappa Gamma Pi, National Catholic College Honor Society, inducted 2000 •Chi Sigma Iota, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International, inducted 2005 •Robert Brown Memorial Fund Scholarship, 2005

Past/Present Clients
Step family members, children, adults, teens

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