So, logically with the way kids and technology today I believe its ok, if not prudent to check to see what kids are doing on their phones. Well, browsing through my 15 year-old stepdaughters phone today I noticed that she had been sending naked pics of herself to other kids. I don’t know what to do at this point. I know her mother would go off the deep end if she found out and would make the situation worse. At the same time I am feel that my step-daughter doesn’t want me in her life even though I see her as my own daughter. If I were to try to talk to her about what I had seen I feel it would get really ugly really fast and she would feel that her privacy has been violated (even though she is aware that we have the right to check her phone, and this isn’t the first time suggestive behavior has been found on her phone)…PLEASE I NEED SOME ADVICE
This is a difficult situation, but the answer is more obvious than you might think. Stepdads are in a challenging position. We need to bond with our kids while -at the same time- being good parents. If she were your biological daughter you’d drop the hammer and she’d be sitting on the couch being talked to. As a Stepdad we have to do the hard work of being the best parent we can be, while we walk the thin line of step parenting. It can be daunting, finding the right balance.
Stepdads face a challenging dynamic –not just with their kids, but also in their role as co-parenting. There is typically a struggle to establish role and position when a Stepdad joins a family. You’ve heard us cover that at length here, so I won’t get too deep into it. This dynamic can be improved but we have to be strategic, moving our position forward a little at a time. We have to build trust with the wife and with the kids. Stepdads need to be amateur psychologists. That can be a lifelong journey. The teen years are historically the toughest.
All of that aside, there are legal and ethical issues to deal with here.
Legal: You are aware of naked pictures of a minor
Ethical: Your child is doing something that could have a devastating effect on her life.
Should you tell her mom and risk your relationship with the child? Should you risk the embarrassing conversation with her mom about checking her daughter’s phone and seeing these inappropriate pics?… It may seem like a difficult choice. It’s not! As a parent (and that’s what you are) it’s your responsibility and duty to look out for the best interest of your kids. As for your marriage… your kid’s safety is more important than your marriage. Whatever the cost –you have to make sure she stops her self-destructive behavior. The issue of telling mom can be challenging. Moms often have a hard time believing their little babies are growing up. Sometimes it’s helpful for them to see instead of being told. Strategy might come into play.
When my daughter was 16 she had a boyfriend. We were clear about the rules. Hey, we were all 16 once, right. Naturally I doubted they were following the rules. One evening her boyfriend was visiting and I peaked in on them watching TV. She was sitting in his lap, facing him, going in for the kiss. I walked into the other room and casually mentioned to her mom that the lights were out in the TV room. She went to investigate. Naturally she lost her mind when she walked in on them. I was able to support her reaction without having to turn my daughter in for her misbehavior.
There may be a strategic way for you to help your wife discover what your daughter has been doing. But don’t waste time. Your daughter’s safety is the most important thing. The longer you delay, the more time she will have to make bad decisions. It’s probably better to just tell your wife and face whatever fallout you get. Maybe you can start the discussion by asking your wife to not to share the information you’re about to tell her. She may go along with it to protect your daughter against the embarrassment of knowing you saw the pics. What’s most important is you’re concerned about your daughter. Sometimes we have to protect our kids from themselves. That’s how good parents are. There’s nothing wrong with being a good parent. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for your family.
Ultimately Stepdads are parents. We need to raise them like we made them, but we also need to be strategic. Do the right thing and you’ll never have to regret your decision. Do the wrong thing and you’ll spend your life looking back. Keep smiling –and Stepdad on!