Ask Gwen: Kids and new spouses after divorce


exasperated momI have two teenage children. Communicating to them is tough, I feel I am a good mom. I resent the fact that my ex-husband seems to keep butting into our lives. They are close with their father. I don’t think its necessary that he knows how I spend the child support. I don’t appreciate when he tells me how to budget better.

I’m getting married to a wonderful man. We’ve been together for 9 years. The children are very critical of him and this hurts. He will not standby and listen to the kids putting me down. I try to help them and be by their side to help them what ever happens. I love my children. But it really hurts when their step-mom gets a card for mother’s day and I get a phone call to say Happy Mothers Day. Even if they would make one on the computer I would be happy. I feel the kids do not love me they seem to be always putting me down and I really get hurt by this. I know I am the parent but I really feel their father thinks he has to be in our faces constantly or when it’s convenient for him. Thank you for letting vent.

Gwen’s Answer:

You are in a tough spot. Sounds like your ex does not have a positive attitude towards you, and this may be rubbing off on your teens. If your new partner comes down hard on them when they are rude, they will dislike him. If they feel you are siding with him against them, they will feel betrayed. If you express disappointment over things like cards, suggest they do not love you, or act hurt by their behaviours, they will feel guilty and that leads to resentment. If you are critical of their father, whom they love, they will resent that also.

It may sound like a losing battle, but it is not. In fact, it should not be a battle at all. First, there needs to be an end to polarity. The good-guy bad-guy thing only creates pain. Competition with a stepmom does the same thing. The only answer is to build a strong, loving relationship with your teens. You need to make some one-on-one time to really listen to their concerns, without judging or defending.

Ask them what they think would make things better at your house. Listen with your heart. Pretend you are them. Think how you would feel in their places. You and your partner need to model the behaviors you want to see in them. Spend some time doing some fun things with them: if you can share some happy times their warm feelings will come out more.

Remember that the teen years can be difficult. While there need to be firm boundaries about acceptable behaviors, we must remember not to take their moods or comments personally. They need your love all the time, but especially when they are ‘unlovable’. If you can relax and not make too many things ‘issues’, I think you will find they will grow out of this stage, and you will still be able to have a healthy, loving relationship with them.

Previous articleAsk Gwen: Daughter feels lost
Next articleAsk Gwen: Abusive Father