Helping the New Stepmother

Dear Mr. Dad: I have three children and have been divorced for several years. My girlfriend of six months and I are thinking about getting married. But I’m concerned about her relationship with my kids. It’s not that she doesn’t like them—I’m sure she does. It’s just that she always seems shy and reserved around them. I really want us to be a family but I don’t want to put pressure on her. What can I do?

A: Stepping into the middle of someones else’s family can be incredibly intimidating, and it’s no wonder that your girlfriend is feeling reserved around your kids. At the same time, it’s great that you’re concerned about her, because you’re the one who’s going to determine whether or not she’ll thrive as part of your new, larger family. Here are some ideas that will help her feel more confident:

  • Establish the rules. Since you and your girlfriend are heading towards marriage, it’s essential that talk about—and reach some agreement—on the following issues:
    • Discipline. Who will discipline your kids and how? For now, it’s best to leave as much of that to you as possible. Over time, give her more authority and back her up when she uses it.
    • Everything else. How involved do you expect her to be in the mundane parts of parenting, such as helping the kids with their homework, driving carpools, grocer shopping, attending parent-teacher conferences, and so on?
    • Money. A judge may include your new wife’s income when calculating child support. Hopefully, that won’t happen, but if it does, how will she feel about it?

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Armin Brott

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Armin Brott is the proud father of three, a former U.S. Marine, a best-selling author, radio host, speaker, and one of the country’s leading experts on fatherhood. He writes frequently about fatherhood, families, and men's health. Read more about Armin or visit his website, You can also connect via social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest,  and Linkedin.

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