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What to Do When Stepchildren Don’t Play Nice

If adult kids are in the picture, don’t expect a fairy tale romance


Moving in with a man with older children can come with unexpected complications — especially if those grown adults are quick to cast you in the role of evil stepmother. But take heart: With a sense of humor and a practiced smile and nod, you can gradually gain acceptance. It just might take awhile.

In the meantime, here are six things to keep in mind from my new book, Cinderella Has Cellulite: And Other Musings From a Last Wife:

1. Remember, this is not their fairy tale.

Sitting together at Starbucks, you and your intended may be lulled into complacency. “Ours is the rare later-in-life fairy tale,” you may think. “Surely, there will be no problems as our children have already left the nest we are considering cohabiting. They have their own lives.” But that doesn’t mean they won’t be motivated to delay or derail your happy ending. You’ll want to keep your wits about you as you earn their trust.

His children don’t want to know about your Victoria’s Secret stash, so keep your corset in a locked closet and weekend wear tucked away.

2. Stay out of the kitchen.

Your Prince Charming may have raved over the casserole you so carefully cooked during your courtship, but the way to his children’s hearts is not through their stomachs (even if you graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and your recipes were handed down from your grandmother who studied with Julia Child). Whether their mother was a whiz in the kitchen or could barely boil water, you are unlikely to win points in this arena.

3. Watch what you wear to family gatherings.

When you do dine with his children, dine out — and wear your armor. No flirty or flimsy frocks. Your décolletage should go undetected, your cleavage covered.

4. Keep your underthings under wraps.

His children don’t want to know about your Victoria’s Secret stash, so keep your corset in a locked closet and your weekend wear tucked away.

5. Coach your kids for that first meeting.

When bringing your own progeny onto his turf, it’s important to have discussed the likely scenarios before everyone assembles. Tell your darlings to dance around any differences at those first meetings. Just as Emily Post advises, don’t discuss money, politics or religion. And competition between the bloodlines is to be minimized. Even badminton, board games and karaoke can get out of hand.

6. Smile and nod and then smile some more.

If his children are in denial that their dad has found a new true love, the best thing to do is persevere. Think of it like this: Their mother is Mother Teresa; you’re the mother of the groom at a society wedding. Your job is to shut up, sit a lot, smile a lot and shake your head up and down a lot regardless of the arrows that are flung your way. And if anyone pays you a paltry compliment, say “thank you” in a meek and modest manner. You’ll get through it, I promise.

 

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