And it often happens because stepparents feel threatened by their spouses' relationship with their children, she says.
"The original parent has a shared history with his kids that the stepparent doesn't have, which can lead to feelings of insecurity and envy."But allowing them quality alone time is crucial.
If possible, Brooks suggests developing a relationship with the ex.
"It's not just weddings and funerals that require the whole family; it's graduations and holidays, new homes, babies, illnesses and more.
The stepdaughter controlled the relationship and talked negatively about her stepmom to other students—it wasn't healthy."Cari Andreani, a teacher in Jacksonville, FL, who's worked with divorced families, suggests bonding through shared experiences instead.
"Go for a bike ride or cook dinner together," she says.
"Be a caring, responsible adult figure, much like a loving aunt, uncle or grandparent," she recommends.
"You can act like a parent when your stepchildren are about to do something irrevocably stupid and you're the only one around to stop it.
Stepparents may feel enormous pressure to get things "right," especially given those long-held social stigmas (wicked stepmother, anyone? "I thought I had to be Super Stepmom, Wonder Wife and She-Ra all rolled into one," says Nolan.And yet, "people in stepfamilies are expected to act and behave like first families, which is like pounding a square peg into a round hole," she says."You have to earn admission into your family," explains Connie Brooks, a stepmom from Venice, CA."For years I felt invisible when my husband and stepdaughters reminisced over stories.Still, many stepparents put up with this behavior because, again, they're hoping to get their stepchildren to like them.Schindler suggests dealing with stepkids' criticism matter-of-factly, recalling her own stepdaughter's remarks while making muffins one day.
"New stepparents try to discipline without establishing trust," says Nolan, typically because they've been given the go-ahead from their spouses.