Walking the high wire


Dear Grandparenting: We need help with our new step-grandchildren. My husband and I are not feeling confident we can pull this one off.

My daughter has one boy aged 11. She remarried this guy with two girls. One is five and the other is nine. They barely know us and we hardly know them. We feel awkward trying to make small talk. I don’t want to say the wrong thing and cause problems.

We’re afraid to jump into this new relationship with both feet. The step-grandkids might want some space. But if we cool it, they might think we don’t like or want them around. I feel like I’m walking the high wire without a safety net. What advice do you have for us? Kathleen Dotter, Johnson City, Tennessee

Dear Kathleen: Given America’s historically high divorce rates, stepfamilies are becoming every bit as normal as biological families.

But by the numbers, it doesn’t get any easier the next time around. Divorce among those working on their second and third marriage is more likely when one partner has children from prior marriage, higher still when both partners do.

It’s nothing new today for children from multiple marriages to have four sets of grandparents. The rules of engagement are tricky for step-grandparents, juggling natural affection for biological grandkids against the wants and needs of incoming step-grandkids.

Don’t try to being all things for all people — be yourself and don’t push it, giving them time to learn about you as you learn more about them. Older children can be slow to warm.

Leave yourself some wiggle room if trying to treat biological and step-grandchildren the same. Fair does not necessarily mean equal. Don’t begin by competing with grandparents from past relationships. You may not take a quick liking to a new marital partner or step-grandchild, but behaving like a marriage will endure can in fact increase the likelihood that it will.

Grand remark of the week

Nadine Smalls from Tampa, Florida was watching the clouds roll by with granddaughter Ellie as they finished their ice cream cones.

“I’m not sure how clouds get made,” said Ellie out of the blue, “but clouds know how to do it and that’s the important thing.”


Tom and Dee and Cousin Key

Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.

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