When your spouse's adult children give you the cold shoulder...

Recently Divorce Answered shared an article about step-parenting and admittedly, it is about step-parenting younger children. A colleague enquired about tips to ‘smooth the waters’ when partnering with someone who has adult children that are a little ‘cool’ towards you.

If this sounds like you, your spouse will appreciate your efforts to try to foster a relationship with their adult children. However, there are a few parameters that need to be considered and respected as you try to warm the relationship between you. Try and keep trying these tips:

  1. Do not call yourself their ‘step-parent.’ Adult children don’t need parents. In fact, in their mind, they don’t need you at all! Wait for them to give you a label for your relationship to them and how they want to publicly recognise your involvement in their life. Or, simply state that you are the partner to the adult children’s parent.
  2. Be patient. Things will come good in time. Don’t rush the process
  3. Be supportive of your spouse’s relationship with their children. Showing and demonstrating to your spouse and their children that you support and encourage their relationship helps to keep you in favour
  4. Kill them with kindness but don’t be taken advantage of. Be helpful, be supportive and be encouraging. Drive them if they need a lift somewhere, offer to pick up something from the shops while you are out if they need anything… however, allowing yourself to be walked-all-over will not earn you respect with the adult children
  5. Babysit the grandchildren. Every parent needs a babysitter. Make sure that you are the most amazing, interested and involved child-minder. If the adult children don’t have children of their own yet, it will only be a matter of time before they are looking for some child-free time
  6. Cook their favourite meal. They say that ‘the way to a man’s heart is through their stomach,’ perhaps this might work on the adult children… Find out what their food preferences are and cook food that they like. They may discover a new favourite made by you!
  7. Wait to be asked before offering any advice, opinion or criticism. If you have to impart your thoughts, perhaps arm your spouse with the information or perspective and leave it to them to deliver the news
  8. Let them come to you. Don’t force yourself or the relationship you want with them upon them. Being insistent and forceful will make them more resentful and distant

FINALLY, ABOVE ALL ELSE AND FAILING ALL OTHERS: 9. Be the most amazing partner to your spouse. No matter how and whether your spouse’s adult children want you in their life, make sure that you look after the person who is important in your life and important in their life: their parent and your spouse. Keeping the best interests of your spouse as a priority and being the most loving, supportive, caring and encouraging partner to your spouse is the single most important task you undertake. Many adult children look past annoying traits, horrible habits and nuances of their parent’s spouse if their parent is visibly happy.

Remember, everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, they should not force their opinion on others or intentionally do anything that could take away another person’s happiness.

You and your spouse are human and you both deserve affection, love and companionship. Your spouse’s adult children are free to live their own lives just like you are. Children may not like their parent’s choice in partner but the parent has earned the right to have their choices respected and their chosen partner treated with respect and courtesy.

If your spouse’s children are not adults, you might like to read this article: “Step-parenting 101: how to parent someone else’s children”


This is general advice only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer and/or accountant before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court. DivorceAnswered.com.au cannot provide legal advice. If you have an emergency situation, please contact Emergency '000'. © Divorce Pty Ltd