Step-Parent Alienation

Step-Parent Alienation
Women and Divorce
Wendi Schuller
Author of
The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce

Parental alienation exists in the world of step-parents too and is commonly known as step-parent alienation.

These step-parents can get a double dose of it from either biological parent.

Parental Alienation is when a parent makes disparaging remarks about the other one.

The attacking parent wants the child to form an allegiance with them and not have a relationship with the absent one. The child is caught in the middle of a parental tug of war.

How does this apply to a step-parent?

During a marriage the biological mum may make snide remarks such as, “Thelma is overstepping her bounds” or “Thelma acts and dresses like a teenager.”

Comments may be made about the lack of nutritional meals and so forth. The children may be put into a bind where it is said or implied, that if they like Thelma, they are being disloyal to their mum.

A biological parent may be in a perceived power struggle with the step-parent. This competition can even be on a subconscious level.

One father resented the close relationship between his daughter and his new wife.

This Narcissist did not want to share the limelight with his wife, so he would make subtle putdowns regarding her competence. The father was attempting to alienate his daughter from the step-mother.

Eventually they divorced and his daughter maintained a relationship with her step-mother. Post-divorce, the biological mum asked the step-mum, “What took you so long to get a divorce?”

How to lessen the likelihood of step-parent alienation?

Some step-parents said they were proactive before marriage telling the kids that they were a family friend, and not a future parent.

Be upfront with step-kids that you respect their parents and are not a replacement. Cut the kids some slack, but do not tolerate disrespectful or rude behavior. Talk with your spouse to see if the other parent is trashing you to their kids.

Step-parent alienation
Asking about the child’s routine and advice reassures the parent that their parental position is not threatened

Step-mums have asked the biological parent out for coffee and clarified the friend role.  Asking about the child’s routine and advice reassures the parent that their parental position is not threatened.  A step-dad might have discussion with the father over a pint at the pub.

The important thing is that the children are not being forced to take sides.

Family mediation may be in order. When I was on a radio show, I had quite a few callers who asked about pre-marital counselling for second marriages when there were children. I think that is a great idea.

My step-mother’s family was so welcoming and treated me as if I were a blood relative. My maternal grandparents had died before I was born, so I was thrilled to gain another set. I had instant cousins who were close to my age.

My father was a jerk, so my step-mum ended up divorcing him. He was livid and said cruel things about her and the family post-divorce.

When I refused to listen to these remarks, he gave the ultimatum, “It’s either her or me.” It was an easy choice to make. My father stuck to his word, so we parted ways.

My father did step-parent alienation to the max to try and sever my relationship with my step-mother and her family after their divorce.

In most cases, step-parenting works after some trial and error.

Two step-dads each told me a nice wedding story. In one, the step-dad walked the bride halfway up the aisle. Then her biological father took over and gave the young lady away to the groom.

The second step-dad and the father together escorted the bride up the aisle to the alter for a memorable wedding.

Are you a step parent?  How are is it working for you?



Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).

Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.

She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is

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Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash


  1. Unfortunately your situation happens to plenty of other step-parents and this is what has helped them. I have been told that they think of themselves as a family friend, instead of a parent. They tell the child that they are NOT a substitute parent, but a good friend. This takes the pressure off the situation when a biological parent is feeling threatened. You could ask him what he enjoys doing with his other friends. Then have him help plan these activities with you. What you are doing is helping the child not feel he is betraying his mum, by having fun with you. You are a friend.
    There are house rules for all: be kind, respectful, polite and so forth. If anyone (the child) violates the rules (mouths off to you or is rude) they are reminded that is not allowed in this household. It makes it less personal.
    Plan fun activates with his father and any other children in your household – outings to an amusement park, festival, rugby match- whatever fits. Sometimes just listening to him does the trick. When he gets a little older he can appreciate your friendship. This is hard, but try to keep things low key and not get emotional. His mum may be a drama queen and you are a calm presence in his life. What some step-parents do, is to allow their step-child to bring a friend along on activities.
    If things are too stressful, family counselling can be beneficial

  2. Hi
    It’s not working at all!
    I am told buy my partners youngest son (7) that he mum tells him that she hates me.
    She tells him i am not part of his family and i am the odd one out! What he means is that he said his dad, his mum, his step dad and his sister are all his family but i am not.
    Bearing in mind his step dad and I have been with his biological parents for 4 years.
    He will not show me any affection, he wont give me a kiss goodbye or cuddle. Most of the time he will not acknowledge I am even there to the point of being rude.
    However as all kids would he likes treats off me!
    This is highly distressing for me as we know it’s all coming from his biological parent as she feels threatened by me having a good relationship with him.
    I cant talk to the biological mother as she is hugely narracissitic and tries to manipulate things and is very irrational. She’s the same with my partner.
    What do I do?

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