“Amy kept telling me, ‘Dad can divorce you, but he can’t divorce me,’ and that’s what it came down to. …Amy knew from the start she was in the position of power. I sometimes wonder, could I have done anything more? But I don’t think so. I tried so hard.”
– Michele, 42, Texas (Artlip et al., 1993, p. 102)
It’s not always the stepmother who misbehaves. Let’s take a look at the flip side of the evil stepfamily dynamic: The mischievous child who is determined to stand in the way and foil the stepparent’s plans.
Many stepparents find themselves in a position like this: dealing with stepkids who seem more like step-demons. Stepchildren (daughters especially) have been known to make up vicious stories about a stepparent to feed to the other biological parent. They may make up stories or twist facts around to try and drive a wedge between their biological parent and his or her new spouse. Sometimes this conniving goes both ways, with a child telling YOU horrible things about their mom and telling their mom horrible things about you, so that each family assumes the worst about the other. (Shimberg, 1999, p. 36) This may be a cry for help or simply a way for the stepkids to fuel conflict or feel empowered within a situation that otherwise makes them feel powerless.
Here are some other things stepchildren have been known to do:
- Report a stepparent to the police or have them arrested.
- Feed the stepparent vicious lies about their own parent’s past as a way to try and drive the stepparent away.
- Play the stepparent and their biological parent against each other.
- Intentionally humiliate a stepparent in public.
- Scheme to get a stepparent fired from their job.
- Try to poison or murder a stepparent.
- Daughters have been known to imply they are engaged in an incestuous relationship with their father in order to scare a stepparent away.
These problems don’t necessarily go away once the children turn 18, either. Adult stepchildren can create problems for a family every bit as severe as any stepchild living in the home.
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