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Ask Ellie: Good relationship with new stepmom takes time

Divorce affects parent-child relationships, especially when a newcomer’s included.

Dear Ellie: I’m a young man, 17, living with my father because he and my mother got divorced. It was no big surprise. I’m not having “mental-health problems” over it, because I pretty much knew it was coming.

They were hardly speaking to each other by the time they told me they were still going to be “friends,” they’d both always love me, “it wasn’t your fault.”

I think that’s a dumb thing to say because of course it wasn’t my fault.

So, it’s seven months later now and my dad has a girlfriend. He denied it at first which was silly because he’d started going out every Saturday night and sometimes said I might want to have a friend sleep over at our place. I knew that meant that he was sleeping over at hers.

She’s 12 years younger than him and an okay person. I just find it creepy when she tries to act like she’s my back-up mother.

My mom was strict about some things — no drugs, no taking a lift with someone who’s been drinking, no going out on nights before exams. But basically, she trusted me and told me so.

My dad’s girlfriend is different. She’s always asking me questions about drugs and alcohol as if she’s suspecting I’m a wild teenager she has to oversee.

I told my dad he should calm her down. I already have a mother who’s known me for 17 years.

I wasn’t angry, just being honest about her. Then, he’s the one who said it was normal if I’m having mental- health issues about the divorce. I’m not.

What’s your advice about this?

Not My Mother

Tell your father that there’s nothing seriously worrying you. You think his girlfriend’s an “okay,” person, but she needn’t keep questioning you about drugs and alcohol as if you’re already secretly addicted.

Ask your dad for some private time with him, like a long bike ride, or watching a ball game together. If she joins in sometimes, that’s okay too.

Every new relationship needs adjustment time, and this one’s two-fold: One for just you and your father, and another for being with the “couple.”

You’re still processing handling all this, but you’re doing very well. The more you adjust to what’s new about her (and different from your mother), the more she’ll also relax about her new connection to you.

Dear Ellie: My aunt’s a self-described “matchmaker” always trying to set me up with someone, even though I’m way too busy with four-year-old twins. My ex said he “didn’t bargain for this,” and left eight months ago. We haven’t even dealt with divorce, though he does pay child support.

Weekends are especially tough as he only takes them out a couple hours every other week.

At 32, many of my friends are still having “flings,” dating online for “fun.” It’s healthier for me to accept my reality.

But what do I tell my aunt that won’t hurt her feelings or add to my feeling sorry for myself?

No Personal Time

Handling this on your own takes determination, perseverance, and love. You’re doing your best, choosing strong values.

Meanwhile, find your “happy” boosters. Take the kids to a park picnic, with simple sandwiches and healthy treats.

Take nap breaks when the twins sleep. Also, create a regular quiet time with music/favourite picture books. A healthy routine will lessen the feeling of endless tasks.

Thank your aunt for her caring.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Divorce affects parent-child relationships, especially when a newcomer’s included. Assure children of your love.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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