Dear Coleen, my partner and I have been together for three years and have lived together for about 18 months. He’s divorced and has two children from his previous marriage. His ex had an affair, which caused the split, and she’s now remarried to the other guy and they have a baby.
My partner’s kids come to stay with us every other week, so their time is split equally between us and their mum. Although this sounds ideal in principle, I can see it’s very disruptive for the children, who are seven and nine.
I’ve really done my best with them and they’re sweet to me most of the time, although I have been on the wrong end of their rages and they can be cheeky and rude.
Their mum is disorganised and the kids never have the correct things with them from school. My partner was also called by the headteacher to say his son was acting out – being mean to other children and rude to teachers.
I want to help, but I don’t really know what else I can do other than be a steady and calming presence in the house.
I don’t really feel it’s my place to get involved with arrangements for the kids, even if I think they’re not working, and my partner has enough on his plate. Any ideas?
Well, you are involved. I’m sure you’re taking care of his children when they’re in your house and I think you should feel able to share your opinion with your partner.
It sounds like being a steady and calming influence is exactly what the kids need when their lives have been so disrupted and they now move between houses. So you should be proud of yourself for that.
I don’t know how well you get on with your partner’s ex, but when it comes to equipment for school and other practical things, why not reach out to her and see if you can come up with a plan that works?
Don’t do it in a way that comes across as critical – just show her that you want to help. You’d be reaching out to her, but not over anything too sensitive and it’s a way of building bridges.
And then leave it up to your partner to discuss his son’s behaviour at school with his ex.
As someone who’s been part of a stepfamily set-up, I just want to reassure you that it does settle down in time, but you have to be patient and keep working at it. It’s a huge change for these children and they have to build a relationship with you.
It sounds like you are doing all the right things, though, so have some confidence in yourself and your judgement.