Parenting Stepchildren/Stepfamily issues


I have been married to my husband for a few months now (we've been together for almost a year). I have 3 and 6-year-old daughters from a former relationship, and he has 13 and 14-year-old sons and an 11-year old daughter. My daughters and I get along with my husband and his sons. However, his daughter despises us. She is disrespectful to me and she is mean to my daughters. She curses and talks back to me, and says things like, "I hope my dad divorces you". I've tried to bond with her, but it's pointless. She never wants to join us in family activities, like dinner or movies (she says she doesn't want to be around me or my daughters). My husband has also tried talking with her, but it's not working. I try to understand why she acts like this. Her mom moved across the country and refuses to see her. But I just want the disrespect to stop. My husband and I are expecting our first baby later this year. She isn't happy about my pregnancy, ("because now my dad won't leave you"). We've tried family therapy, but it's not helping. I just want our new family to be happy. What should I do?


Thank you for the inquiry. It may be helpful to have a frank discussion without the children present about your concerns about therapy and the family moving forward. Perhaps, your step daughter may benefit from having her own therapist to assist her solely with her adjustment. Please note that it takes approximately 7 years for stepfamilies to adjust. So a few months is not a long time for adjustment for everyone.

It would also help if you and your spouse are on the same page with regard to expectations of behaviors (respect included) for all of the children. Being united (you and your spouse) will take you far in the adjustment phases for a stepfamily. The Stepfamily Foundation out of NY has lots of resources that may be helpful.

~Dr. Carey

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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