Dear Thelma: How can I protect my daughter yet let her connect with her half-brother?


By THELMA
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Dear Thelma,

I am seeking advice on a challenging situation involving my blended family. I am divorced, and my ex-husband has since remarried and had a son with his new wife. While my relationship with my ex-husband is cordial, I have maintained a distance from his new wife due to her hostile behaviour towards me.

Given the tension, I have decided to disallow my daughter from having anything to do with her father's second family. I simply do not trust his new wife, and I worry about the potential negative impact she might have on my daughter. My ex-husband and I have managed to co-parent relatively well so far, but this issue is becoming a significant point of contention.

I am concerned that my decision might be affecting my daughter more than I realise. She is aware that she has a half-brother and another family on her father's side, but I have kept her from forming any connections with them. I am torn between wanting to protect her and wondering if I am unintentionally causing her harm by limiting her family relationships.

How can I navigate this complex situation while prioritising my daughter's well-being? Is there a way to foster a relationship between my daughter and her half-brother without compromising her safety or my peace of mind? I want to do what is best for her, but I am struggling to find the right balance.

Any advice or strategies you could provide to help me manage this situation would be greatly appreciated.

Concerned Mother


Your ex has remarried and you and his new partner don’t get along. That’s a shame but not unusual.

You’ve chosen to keep your daughter away from the new partner and her half-brother, but you don’t explain why you chose this path.

If you think your daughter is not physically safe, you’d not be thinking of sending her there under any circumstances, so it can’t be that.

If it were just that the new partner doesn’t like you, that shouldn’t be an issue either. The woman is an adult and should be able to act pleasantly towards her own stepdaughter.

But maybe she isn’t? Are you worried she will be nasty to the child because she doesn’t like you?

Whatever it is, you’ve realised that your daughter is missing out on an opportunity to build a strong relationship with her half-brother. That’s potentially a life-long connection that will bring both of them a lot of joy.

Life can be very difficult, and the more happy connections we have, especially family, the better. So I agree that you should try to gift the kids with this relationship.

Also, relationships can be complex, and so it’s best that your daughter and her half-sibling learn from you on how to navigate difficulties nicely.

I think the way forward is for you to talk your concerns over with your ex.

Your ex’s new wife’s hostility is puzzling, considering the circumstances. We don’t need to like everyone, but with blended families, the kids come first. There are always joint events, and so the adults involved have to display their best manners.

To put it bluntly, she knew what she was getting into, so she’d better learn to manage this properly.

I assume that you are properly polite. Stay that way and get your ex to sort out his partner. He is the father, and it’s his wife, so this is his job.

The rule is simple: As an adult, and a woman who married knowing there was a child in the mix, she must be polite to you, and warm to her stepdaughter.

Telling your ex this may be tricky, even if you get along, because it may come across as personal. Keep it brief, be calm, and as long as you’re not asking for more than surface good manners, it should be acceptable. I’m sure your ex wants his daughter to spend time with him too.

So, explain your concerns, and then agree on how your daughter will be treated when she visits her half-brother. Talk openly and detail how a visit might go.

Once you have agreed on terms with your ex, let your daughter visit. Then monitor how it goes.

If your daughter is a tot, have a quiet chat with her after her visits. You’ll pick up on anything that’s not working and you can fix that with the help of your ex.

If she’s a bit older, you might choose to share your worries in an age-appropriate way – such as explaining that being a part of a blended family can be tricky, and if she has concerns, she can talk to her dad or call you.

Then, if it doesn’t go well, you will know you have done your best. And hopefully, your daughter and her half-brother can still meet and become friends when they are older.

Good luck. Here’s hoping it all works out nicely.

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