How To Manage Older Step-Kids

older step kids
Marin Dahl

By Marin Dahl | Sep 25th, 2019

My boyfriend’s son is twenty-five years old. I’ll admit it; when he told me his kid’s age on our first date I was relieved. My dad remarried when I was thirteen, and I had a horrible relationship with my step-mother. Entering the dating world after divorce, I’d kind of dreaded dating and marrying a man with kids, even though I knew it was slightly hypocritical of me since I had a child. 

But an older stepson couldn’t be too bad, right? Wrong. 

Two weekends ago, we’d planned a romantic getaway. Instead, my boyfriend’s son decided to quit his job, get in a fight with his younger brother, and take off. Our romantic weekend was spent driving around downtown Indianapolis, trying to locate and talk some sense into him. 

Even though older children don’t typically live with their divorced parents, they can still impact your dating life and post-divorce relationships. A girlfriend of mine recently met her boyfriend of six month’s adult daughter. When she stuck out her hand and said, “Hi, I’m Sarah,*” the 22-year-old sniffed, ignored her attempts to introduced herself, and walked out the room. 

Turns out that even adult children can be resentful of their parents’ divorces. 

What’s a woman to do if her boyfriend or new husband’s children become an issue in the relationship? Manage expectations. Even though my son is much younger, and still in grade school, in a similar situation, I’d have canceled our weekend getaway, too. I’ve learned, as have many divorced women, that life goes more smoothly if I’m flexible.

Sarah just shrugged and let the daughter’s poor manners slide. It’s important to step back and not take things personally. The daughter had been upset when her parents split while she was in college, and angry that they’d just stuck it out for the kids. That has nothing to do with Sarah, and it’s not her job to correct or call out the poor manners. 

However, our boyfriends or new husbands should also establish boundaries and demand respect on our behalf. We’re not there to be the scapegoat for the adult child’s unresolved issues about their parent’s divorce. Sarah’s boyfriend did talk to his daughter privately, later on, about her rudeness. 

When adult children interfere in their parent’s relationships, watch how your new significant other responds. Do they have your back? Another divorced friend remarried a much-wealthier man. She makes her own money and has a successful career of her own, but his children still demanded that he not marry her, calling her a gold-digger and other outdated terms for 2019. 

Instead, he sat them down and had some firm words with them about his right to happiness and their feelings of entitlement. After observing that he’d set boundaries around them, and wouldn’t tolerate their name-calling, she felt much more comfortable about marrying him. It’s not necessarily fair to ask our new significant others to pick sides. But if they don’t stick up for us, maybe the relationship isn’t meant to be. 

When you become a parent, you’re signing up for a lifelong responsibility. When you decide to marry or date a man with children from a previous relationship, they’re a part of the package no matter their ages. You may not have to parent, bathe, feed, and clothe them actively, but they will be a part of your life, too. 

I actually get along quite well with my soon-to-be stepson. We like the same TV shows, are in similar lines of work, and sometimes gang up to tease his dad. In a way, we’re more friends than parent-child. Even if you can’t form a friendship bond with your SO’s adult child, if you manage expectations, be flexible, and set boundaries, it won’t interfere with your relationship with their parent. 

*Name has been changed.


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