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Parenting Stepchildren/Concerns with blending families


Dear Dr. Carey
I have been dating a man for almost a year that has primary custody of his 12 1/2 yr old daughter with Down Syndrome. Her relationship with her mother is improving but has never been very good due to the mother not being involved (my boyfriend's ex-wife). A few months ago the daughter had her first period so she is entering puberty as well. She is of course very close to her father as he has been the primary caregiver since she was born.
I also have children. A boy that is 8 1/2 and a daughter that is 6 1/2 from my previous marriage. He has not met my children.
I first met his daughter about 6 months ago and her and I have gotten along wonderfully. She has been very affectionate, is excited when I visit etc. But over the past few weeks she has become possessive of her father, calling him her boyfriend not mine, pushing me away from him. Trying to kiss him on the lips and being overly affectionate in my opinion. She needs him to sleep with her from time to time and gets into bed with him frequently.
Our relationship is committed and we intend to marry one day. We both love kids and are very careful with what we expose them to, etc. We will probably want to have children of our own when we marry. We are mid thirties and would like to do that sooner rather than later.
So in general I feel like he needs to redirect her overly affectionate behavior as it is a bit inappropriate and I have concerns he could be wrongly accused of something due to the sleeping situation. Her speech is not well developed and is difficult to understand and I am afraid things could get misinterpreted. I also feel he needs to allow her to be more independent and do more things for herself as from being around her I can clearly see she is capable of more and may help her develop relationships with people other than him if she feels less dependent on him. She is allowed to change clothes in the kitchen and living room, things like that.
I am quite strict with my children, requiring them to age appropriately take care of themselves, putting dishes in the sink, cleaning up their own messes,  setting out their clothes for the following day etc etc.
My concern is that our merging of families would be a disaster in the current way our households are run. I completely understand she has special needs and things are different. But I really think it would be so beneficial for her to learn more ways to be independent and small steps to take care of herself. I have read a lot about how DS adults struggle with depression and loneliness and that the more independent they are and if they are capable of working it helps with that.
But I obviously have no expertise or experience and not sure if I am being unreasonable. And how do we merge households when the rules for our children are vastly different. I dont want my children to feel like they are being treated unfairly and I dont want that to breed resentment towards his daughter. And I am concerned about the jealous behavior and how to handle that. I know he needs to address it as her father but I feel I should be talking to him about it.
I need advice and help. I was ready for him to meet my kids but I have all these concerns. At what point do I know if we can make this work or not.
Thank you


Thank you for the opportunity to assist you with your question.

It sounds as if you have some very valid concerns about your pending merging of families.

I agree that the concerns you mentioned in the email question are of high priority and need to be addressed immediately to assist you with your blended family success. Unfortunately, a public online forum is not sufficient for the needs you detailed for your family.

I would recommend that you and your boyfriend seek and attend professional stepfamily counseling from a qualified stepafamily counselor to assist you to with processing the concerns that you have as well as to receive guidance on merging your families.

Feel free to contact me again directly should you require further assistance to locate a qualified stepfamily counselor.  

Parenting Stepchildren

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KaRae' Carey, PhD


I can answer questions that pertain to challenges stepparents face, as well as challenges with adjustment and integration of the stepfamily. I can answer questions about psychological, emotional, and social changes that affect adults and children in stepfamilies. I can answer questions that have to do with the emotional and psychological impact of stepfamilies pertaining to child support, visitation, or divorce.


I am a stepmother to one boy and one girl. I have been in their lives since they were about 8 years old. I have first-hand "real life" experience with 'baby mama drama' and strains in marriage due to the complications and challenge that being a new stepmother presented. Bio: Inspired and motivated by her experiences as both a stepdaughter and stepmother of two children, Dr. Carey founded the Triangle Stepfamily Institute and is committed to empowering stepfamilies. She has first-hand experience both personally and professionally, with the difficulties people may experience when adjusting to stepfamily life. Dr. Carey believes that with the right support, and armed with knowledge, living harmoniously within a stepfamily is possible. She has dedicated countless hours to understanding the delicate functioning of the stepfamily and has produced several articles related to stepfamily relationships and functioning. Dr. Carey has studied with research pioneers and clinical leaders in the field of stepfamily life. She has also conducted independent research about stepfamilies with a focus on the concerns of the stepmother. She has also earned certification as a stepfamily counselor. Dr. Carey has also earned seven specialty certifications. Dr. Carey’s specialty certifications include being a nationally certified professional counselor, an accredited clinical supervisor, a credentialed distance counselor, board certified health services professional, school guidance counselor, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and a certified stepfamily counselor. For more information on services, or to request Dr. Carey for counseling, interviews, or speaking opportunities, please contact her through her web site, or by calling 919-454-7857.

National Association of Professional Women American Counseling Association Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina

Publications, expert author

Oakland University, Rochester, MI Ph.D. in Counselor Education 2009 Dissertation: “The Experience of the African American Stepmother: An Exploratory Investigation ” Honors: Dissertation nominated for 2010 Outstanding Humanistic Dissertation Award Cognate Concentrations: Child and Adolescent Mental Health & School Guidance Counseling Major Advisor: Robert Fink, PhD Madonna University, Livonia, MI M.S. in Clinical Psychology 2002 Madonna University, Livonia, MI B.S. Psychology 2000 Cartified Stepfamily Counselor, Stepfamily Foundation, 2011 • Licensed Professional Counselor, State of North Carolina, (6893) • National Certified Counselor, NBCC, (234907) • Credentialed Distance Counselor, CCE, (966) • Approved Clinical Supervisor, CCE, (ACS01058) • Board Certified Health Services Professional, CCE, (1472) • Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist- Provisional- State of North Carolina • Licensed Bachelor of Social Work, State of Michigan, (6802084095) • Limited Licensed Psychologist, State of Michigan, (6301012018) • Social Worker Registration, State of Michigan, (6803075415) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of Michigan, (SC000554) • School Counselor license (K-12), State of North Carolina, (XXXXX2200)

Awards and Honors
•Kappa Gamma Pi, National Catholic College Honor Society, inducted 2000 •Chi Sigma Iota, Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society International, inducted 2005 •Robert Brown Memorial Fund Scholarship, 2005

Past/Present Clients
Step family members, children, adults, teens

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