Parenting Sucks!: Bonding as a Step-Parent

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jkimes1Dear Joanne,

I recently married a man with a ten-year old daughter and I’m having a hard time bonding with her. I know she’s going through a lot of adjustments (as am I!) but I really want to make our relationship better. Please help.


Dear Amy,

First of all, congratulations on your marriage! But yes, being a step-parent can be quite a difficult struggle. You get all of the problems without much of the power. You’re right to develop a bond with your new step-daughter because it certainly will make things a lot easier. My advice is to figure out something the two of you enjoy doing (it could be planting a garden, riding a bike, playing a certain video or board game, cooking, playing tennis, etc.) and have a regular “date”. If you can’t find one activity that you both enjoy, go out for breakfast or frozen yogurt and take turns deciding on the place (it can even be a picnic in the park). The only rule is that during your date, you cannot buy her a gift, or it might cloud the issue of bonding into an issue of bribing.

At first, be prepared for some resentment and anger. She may feel that if she becomes closer with you, she’s somehow cheating on her mother. Or she may have other issues that she’ll need to work out. But stick with it, be consistent, and prove to her that you’re there for her.  Remember that the goal of your date is to have fun together. That’s why, no matter how much she might try to pick a fight, resist. Take a deep breath, count to ten, or heck, bite your tongue so often you could strain spaghetti with it. Just stay calm! Remember, it takes two to argue.

After time, your step-daughter will realize she can count on you and may even look forward to your weekly dates (although she may never admit this to you!). Kids thrive on tradition so take your date seriously and don’t postpone or cancel. After a few weeks or months of spending quality time together, the two of you may develop a strong bond, or at least be able to be in the same room without a screaming match. True, you may never be Carol Brady, but then again, she had a rumored fling with step-son Greg, so that might actually be a good thing! Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

Joanne Kimes is the author of the bestselling “Sucks” series as well as “The Stay-at-Home Martyr.” Visit her at Got questions? Email her

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.