Demonstrate that you love their father and want him to be happy.

How to Deal With Adult Children of a Divorced Man

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

When the man you love has adult children from a previous marriage, your relationship with those children can be challenging. You might have days when you swear they hate you and just want you to go away. You can, however, be cordial and treat them with kindness because you know that he loves them.

1. Divided Loyalties

A relationship with a divorced man who has adult children can be complicated, notes therapist Wednesday Martin in “The Real Reason Children (and Adults) Hate Their Stepmothers” in “Psychology Today.” His kids will feel more loyalty to him than to you because he's been their dad longer than you've been a part of their life. Additional loyalties go to their mother for a similar reason, and they could decide that loving you betrays Mom. Jealousy can also be a problem because you get the attention the child used to get.

2. Know Your Place

Whether you date, live with or marry the man, you will never be his adult children’s parent, advise the therapists at HelpGuide.org in "Guide to Step-parenting & Blended Families." Set out to be his children’s friend. They do not need a parent and likely will resent you for trying. If they worry about you edging them out of time with their father, encourage them to spend time with him and welcome the kids and grandkids to come for visits.

3. Set Boundaries

You can’t make them pick up their socks or hang up their wet towels, but you can insist they speak civilly to you and treat you with respect. In a tactful and calm manner, express your desire that everyone treat others as he wants to be treated. Offer them moral support, suggests psychologist Ted Hagan, and Judi and Emma Hopson in “Dealing With Adult Stepchildren Requires Strategy, Distance, Perspective” for the McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Be yourself and accept that your relationship might never be close, but it can be friendly.

4. Good Communication

Speak to them in respectful tones. Listen when they have complaints and acknowledge their right to an opinion, even if you don’t agree. Respond to their comments and look for a win-win solution. Issue an invitation for them to do things with both of you and also to spend time with him without you, suggest the therapists at HelpGuide.org.

5. Let Him Be Dad

When there are major conflicts, let him deal with his kids and you stay out, suggests the HelpGuide.org therapists. Support him and treat him with love when you are out together in the community and with the kids. If they have something negative to say about your relationship with him, such as you only want his money or you control him, those who see you often will know the truth of the matter.

6. Money Matters

The kids might see any money he spends on you as a drain on their inheritance, according to Hagan. If you spend your money on your needs, let them know that they have nothing to fear on that front. Assure his children that you have made provisions for your kids and their father has made provisions for them.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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