Marriage offers great rewards and it takes considerable effort and compromise on the part of both spouses. Throw in stepchildren into the mix, and it will take a period of challenging adjustments. Even a grown stepdaughter may model the feelings of her biological mother and be disrespectful or cold towards you, as the new person in her father's life. Like your in-laws, you did not choose your blended family. However, it is important to work on a relationship with your stepchildren, just as you would with anyone else.
Your stepdaughter may be acting with disrespect as a way of expressing loyalty to her biological mother. She may feel conflicted about being close to you. Adult children of divorced parents may also have a close, peer-like relationship with their father while he was single. Your stepdaughter may now feel possessive and jealous of his relationship with you, notes psychologist Wednesday Martin, Ph.D. in "Psychology Today." It may take years for a relationship to develop with stepchildren and it can take a great deal of effort. The first step is to communicate with your stepdaughter and explain how you feel, and the adjustments that you have had to make. Talk about her feelings and assure her that you are aware and considerate of the changes she is facing.
Being kind in the face of disrespect from your grown stepdaughter might not work in your favor. A stepdaughter may create conflict because you have not set limits for her. If you bend over backwards to be warm and polite, hoping she will like you, she may see this as weakness instead. Set up boundaries for all your children -- biological and otherwise -- no matter how old they are, about appropriate behavior and treatment of yourself and all family members in your home. Firmly emphasize that you are all one family and that children must respect the parents. Lay the groundwork for your blended family with your spouse and outline the expectations for all members.
As part of a blended family, you and your spouse are the parents of all your children, whether they live with you or not. In most cases, you are also a co-parent with your stepdaughter's biological mother. Talk to your husband about your stepdaughter's behavior and how it is affecting the harmony in your household. Involved parenting is necessary to change some behavior of stepchildren. If necessary, discuss the issue with your husband's ex-wife in a positive manner, notes Dr. Joshua Coleman in "Psychology Today." Your goal should be to make your stepdaughter comfortable and happy in the blended family; a common interest for all the parents involved.
You don't have to have a mother-daughter relationship with your stepdaughter or even love her, but you do have to find some common ground with her. Find a common interest that builds similarity, compatibility and even understanding between the two of you. This can be anything from a favorite TV show, a music artist, sports, cooking and food or a hobby. Avoid crossing into personal territory about her personal life, if she does not wish to share with you.