Bigger Kids

How to help potential stepsiblings get along

Get tips on how to understand and respond to your child's concerns about the new relationships in your life

By Linda Bream, psychologist
How to help potential stepsiblings get along

Q: I’ve been dating a man for about six months. Our daughters are both nine years old and, unfortunately, they don’t get along well. My daughter complains when she has to spend time with the other girl. My boyfriend and I have talked about moving in together, but don’t know how it would work. We both have joint custody of our kids, so they would likely spend a lot of time together. Is there anything we can do to encourage them to get along?
A: It is difficult to know what your daughter might be reacting to in this situation. There are many things she is trying to adjust to: your new boyfriend, a new potential step-sibling and the many other aspects of her nine-year-old life.

Talk to her and try to find out why she finds it hard to get along with your boyfriend’s daughter. Help her plan ways of coping. For example, if she tells you this girl is bossy, you might suggest that the next time they’re together, your daughter be more assertive and insist they play one thing she’d like to play. You can try structuring their time together a bit more by planning something you know they’ll both like to do, so they aren’t left to their own devices as much.

Your daughter may feel she has to play with your boyfriend’s daughter: Don’t force interaction and be sure your daughter feels she has her own space to go to if she needs time alone. Finally, there may be some jealousy and worry about this new potential competitor for your attention. Reassure your daughter that she is your top priority, but help her understand that when families blend, everyone has to make adjustments. Give the girls time — they’ll find a way to be with one another or learn to keep the distance they need to make things work.

This article was originally published on Jan 25, 2012

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