Question from a reader: How do you deal with a stepfather and daughter who don’t respect each other and have said some horrible things to each other that obviously can’t be taken back and were quite hurtful? I am always stuck in the middle, love them both, and honestly don’t know which way to turn. Any ideas?
Answer from Susan: What a terrible bind for you. This is a dilemma many stepfamilies face. I would sit them both down — not on a day when they’ve been fighting but at another time — and tell them exactly what you told me: that you love them both, you don’t know what to do, and you’re at a loss. Tell them that the way they hurt one another hurts you to watch and experience, and you know that these words that they are saying will only bring them more and more pain.
Be sure to tell them that it’s bringing you pain to watch two people you love and care about hurt one another. Be firm. Talk with them about how, from this moment forward, respect can be the new word of the day and that they can learn to say things in a more constructive way. Suggest that if they can’t do that, perhaps they could do some father/daughter counseling to help them learn how to do it.