Is their behaviour normal?

Posted on: 21 January 2008 by

Mindy asks if it’s ‘normal' for her teenage stepchildren to show their Dad so much overt affection

Mindy Writes:

I have been married to my current husband for two years.  His 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son live with us.  But I find the relationship between my stepdaughter and my husband very awkward. Maybe it is my problem and I shouldn't be uncomfortable, but I am.  My stepdaughter is always hanging onto her Dad and giving him pecks (small kisses on the cheeks.)  She does this four or five times a day. 

Every time she asks him for a favour, she says: "Thanks Dad" and kisses him.  Or every time she leaves the house, goes to bed, or gets money from him, she will kiss him.  If she is looking at his computer over his shoulder, she will wrap her arms around him and hug round his neck for ten to 15 minutes.  Or my husband will be talking to her in the kitchen, or in the doorway of her room, and when he is done, he will blow her a kiss. 

Is this normal behaviour for a 17-year-old girl and her father?  I have never witnessed this kind of affection between an older daughter and her Dad before.  And I find it odd the 15-year-old boy is also very touchy feely with his Dad.  My stepson will wrestle around with his Dad all the time, slap him or bear hug him.  This I don't find odd, but he will also sit on my husband's lap sometimes.  Like when my husband is watching TV or on the computer, my stepson will jump in his lap to watch with him, or to look at something on the computer. 

I've mentioned to my husband, just casually, that I find it odd that a boy my stepson’s age would want to sit on his Dad's lap, or that a girl in her late teens should be kissing her Dad's cheek so frequently. My husband just shrugs and says it isn't odd.

Both kids are very dependant on their father and ex-wife.  I am convinced there is nothing sexual underlying any of this.  But the boy actually slept in the same bed with both his parents until he was 12-years old, and he is immature for his age.

Do you consider this sort of behaviour between my husband and his children weird or is it me?  I appreciate your comments on this.

Andy Advises:

Mindy, I agree with you that your stepchildren sound immature.  However, remember two things.  These youngsters have clearly always been a 'touchy-feely' family, which is quite hard for an 'outsider' unfamiliar with this kind of behaviour to deal with.  But if that's how they are, you are not going to change them now, and your husband clearly enjoys having his daughter remain his "little girl", and 17 really isn't all that old!

She’s at a stage where she’s half-woman, half-child.  She looks like a woman, no doubt acts older than her years when she’s out, but at home, she sees herself as ‘Daddy’s little girl’ and what’s more, she almost certainly, if unconsciously, sees you as a rival to her beloved father’s affections. 

Lots of young women behave this way - until they get a man of their own in their lives.  And he is almost certainly over-protective of his daughter in view of the break up of his first marriage to her mother.  I'm sure, as you say, that there is nothing sexual in their relationship.

Neither of them can see that there is anything inappropriate for a father and 17-year old daughter to behave this way, and if you so much as suggest such a thing to her, she will see it as 'jealousy' on your part.

As for your stepson - he sounds really immature but that is not his fault, either.  Any boy who has been encouraged to sleep in his parents’ bed to the age of puberty, has been purposely, or perhaps inadvertently, kept a child for far too long needs to be eased gently into 'man-hood mould'.

I think you need to get your husband on his own and tell him that having a 15-year-old boy sit on his lap to watch TV or look at the computer is opening the lad up to a lot of teasing and possibly bullying in the future if one of his mates was to find out. 

But rather than act in a way that his son might interpret as 'rejection', suggest that perhaps your husband might say:  "You are getting a bit old and too heavy for this" when the boy sits on his lap.  Suggest instead that they might spend 'special' time together in more adult ways, such as going to a football match together on a regular basis, or going motor-racing together.

It must be extremely hard for you because you are not their mother.  Nor should you try to act as if you are, but you can be a friend to these two youngsters and guide them towards maturity gently as you gain their trust. 

If you feel that speaking to a counsellor might help, why not contact the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy at BACP House, Unit 15 St John's Business Park, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, LE17 4HB or visit their website  If you would like to read more about step parenting and get in touch with others facing similar dilemmas to yourself why not visit Forever Families Website at

I'm sure you will find it useful. Please let me know how you get on.


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