My stepson doesn’t get along with our son, though they both have the same father. My stepson constantly tells his brother that he doesn’t want to play with him, to get away from him…. He even went to the extreme of telling him that he wished him dead so that he could be an only child.

That was the breaking point for me, and I asked his father to not bring him to our home anymore…. I always treated him like a son…. I would get his school supplies and his lunch ready and would help him with his homework. That’s why I don’t understand how this could happen.

Dear Friend,

You obviously believe that your stepson would not act in the same way if he shared both father and mother with his half brother. Unfortunately, you are mistaken. We have seen cases, even in our own family, in which an older child rejects his or her younger sibling. Our most important recommendation is that, if possible, you ask your pediatrician for a referral to consult with a professional counselor.

You don’t say that your stepson hits or hurts his half brother nor that he’s violent in any way, which is probably why you don’t express any fear for the safety of your son. If any of those things were true, then we might have different counsel for you.

In any case, what you tell us that you did has now made the situation worse. Your stepson likely now feels rejected by you, and that will make him resent his half brother even more. If your stepson had been your biological son, would you have sent him away?

Most stepchildren face very difficult circumstances. Because their biological parents live in different households, they are not sure where they belong or if they belong at all. They live a life of going back and forth, adjusting to different homes, different parents, and different rules. They are always seeking one hundred percent of anything, rather than just half of everything, and the search usually continues well into their adult lives.

When I became a stepchild at age eleven, I clearly remember trying to make it clear to my mother that she should always put us and our needs before her new husband and his needs. He always seemed like the enemy who was trying to break up our “real” family. As the eldest child, I perceived that it was my role to lead the charge against him. His children lived in another state, so I was fortunate enough not to have to wage war against them, too.

Your stepson’s feelings are not unusual, but they do need to be dealt with. The Bible doesn’t have specific recommendations for this situation, so even though our counsel is based on Biblical principles, it cannot be proven by citing any Biblical texts. Therefore, other knowledgeable experts, whose points of view we respect, may very well disagree with us.

Those who marry a person who already has children are agreeing to adopt them in their hearts, even when they are not adopted legally. Therefore, apologize to your stepson and tell him that you were so alarmed by his comment that you overreacted. Explain that you want what is best for both of your sons, but that they don’t have to play together or share their belongings. If possible, they should have different spaces to play. (You can enforce taking turns with the preferred spaces or put painter’s tape on the floor to divide spaces.) Show your stepson by your actions that he is a valued member of the family and that his feelings matter just as much as his half brother’s.

We wish you well,