What would be the best advice one stepparent could give to another when you find yourself in the situation where your stepkids won't respect you? Or if your spouse will not support you when it comes to his or her kids? One word. Disengage. What is disengaging? In essence, it is a way to protect yourself from being taken advantage of by the people living in your house. If you are tired of toys lying all around the house, tired of making sure that everyone gets done what they are supposed to get done, tired of being taken for granted, tired of many other things that result from being a stepparent you will find renewed energy and the answers to your problems if you disengage.

"I am so glad that I was able to read the article about disengaging! Once I was able to put it into practice in my family, things really began changing for the better! The things that would make my blood pressure raise through the roof don't bother me anymore. My stepdaughter now respects me and loves to spend time with me. My husband has stepped up to the plate and is being a parent to her, so that I don't have to take on responsibility that is not mine and be disrespected because of it. I am no longer an abused member of my own household!" --Anonymous Stepmom

If you are a frustrated stepparent then you are ready to read the article!  This reading cannot be recommended enough!  Disengaging Essay

For further reading, see how one stepmom successfully disengaged and changed her marriage for the better AND gained the respect of her stepdaughter! Disengaging Made Easy

If you have read about disengaging and have decided that it what you need to do, we have a sample letter that you can copy and edit to give to your spouse:

Sample Letter
Here is a real letter from a stepmom to her future husband explaining to him why she needs to disengage and what she will be changing. This sample is provided so that you can use portions of it if you feel like you need to write a letter if you decide that disengaging is right for you.

Dear Hubby,

I feel like I need to write about some of the things that are on my mind as we head into our marriage. This is a different situation for me than it is for you.

When I enter into this marriage, I will not only become a wife, but an instant stepmother as well. It feels to me lately that the only time you and I have been having issues is when it comes to our different approaches on communication and parenting.

So, I'm sending along a list of things that I have found on a step parenting information board on the internet that mostly say what I have been feeling like for the last while. It feels to me as if I am a visitor, maid and cook in my own home during the times that the boys are here visiting, and that although you and I have great talks about how we're going to do things differently, there's no consistent follow through. I could give you a list of those things, but that will only get us into a "I'm right/you're wrong" discussion, so I'm not going to go there.

This isn't about right or wrong. This is about me having a right to feel respected, communicated with, and happy in our home all the time....and not feeling like someone who is in the way, or doesn't have a right to an opinion when the kids are here. I know that you are trying to spend time connecting with the kids when they are here, but I feel like I'm second fiddle when the kids are here and quite frankly, I don't need that.

I do love your kids, and God knows I love you. I want this to work, and I want it to be healthy, and I don't feel like the way that I've been trying to do it has worked very well. And this isn't about the kids and their behavior....I've learned enough about that. They are trying to adjust to a new situation, and they don't HAVE to respect me because there's nothing at risk for them there. If they disrespect either you or their mother, they risk losing something ... but I'm not a parent to them so there's nothing to lose. That sounds harsh, but it's true. They don't have the same bond with me or their mother's boyfriend as they do with you and their mother, so the comment that was made last night kind of sums it up: We don't have to be nice to you because we're not really your kids. Might not sound like much to you because you know that no matter what you do ... those kids are going to respect, love and listen to you. I don't have that luxury or reality. And the struggle of me trying to co-parent with you is taking too big a toll on my relationship with you, which quite frankly, is the only thing that matters to me. So I think I do have to let you be the parent here....and stop trying to co-parent. It's the only way that I can think of to stop the tension between you and I while the kids are here visiting.

So I have decided that from now on I will:

- let you make decisions about when the kids will go to bed/eat supper/play Wii/go to church, etc. I will not question the decisions or ask you if you have communicated with their mother about the decisions.

- take responsibility for myself and my own activities during the times that the kids are here visiting. This means that I will consult with you ahead of time about what my weekend plans are, when I will need the car, what I will be doing etc, and see how that fits with your plans for the weekend. If my plans change, I will consult with you again to be sure that I'm not inconveniencing you. I request the same from you ... that I be consulted with and not told about after the fact when a change is made.

- not remind you about what time it is when you need to be somewhere. You are an adult and I know that you can get yourself and the kids out of the door on time. I will also stay out of the way when you guys are trying to get ready, and trust that you will get everyone out of the door with all of their belongings, clean etc. without my help and/or nagging.

- try to be involved in the kids' visit, but I won't discipline them or ask them not to do things. If I find something offensive (ie burping at the table) I will wait for you to deal with it. I am not responsible for the kids manners, but I do have a right to enjoy a meal in our home without rude manners at the table.

- not clean up after the kids ... I will no longer make their beds (including ours if you guys have slept in there), pick up their clothes, empty pop bottles, treat wrappers, socks, blankets they have used, toys, etc.

Please remember that I love you with all of my heart. I want this marriage to work, and plan to do everything I can to make it work. I know that the most important thing I can do to make it work is to be healthy within myself. And having the resentment and heavy heart that I do about the inability to co-parent with you is not helping me to be healthy. That's why I have to do this. It's called "disengaging" ... the best way to have a good relationship with the kids because I won't be cranky and nagging all the time, and I think the best way for you to decide what parenting role you want me to play with them (if any) and then make a plan to stick to it.

Attached is an essay about "disengaging"....it's a letter similiar to this one that a long time (18 years!) step parent wrote to her husband to be when they were having similiar issues. She says that not only are the kids all happy and healthy now, but she and her husband have the most awesome relationship because she had the courage to be open about this before they got married. I'm sure hoping that is the case for this risk that I'm taking as well!

I love you,


This stepmom's husband responded very well to her letter and they are living in a much more peaceful house now!