Dear Dr. Jann: I was in a wonderful relationship for the past two years but my boyfriend wanted to move in and blend our families. I was reluctant because I don’t want to bring any change to my kids’ lives, even though they love him and his kids. They’ve already been through a divorce and their father’s re-marriage. I want my kids to know that they’re always first in my life. Have I done the right thing?

Dr. Jann: If your relationship is “wonderful,” why would moving in together be detrimental to your children? It’s important to model a positive and loving relationship for our kids otherwise their only reference is your relationship with their father—and you got a divorce. This implies fighting and disagreements and an inability to problem solve. That is not a positive role model for a relationship.

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Based on that, unless you ignore your kids when your boyfriend is around, moving in together should not prevent them from understanding that they are number one. The goal is to combine families where all are accepted and loved—which “wonderful” implies. To help each family member feel respected, it also helps to acknowledge each person’s history and individuality and not allow that to get lost in the blending. (When you blend something together, the individual components get lost and that can be detrimental to successfully combining families.) It will keep your family healthy long term and when that happens, that’s what I call a bonusfamily—because being together is a bonus—and a bonus is a reward for a job well done.

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About Jann Blackstone

Jann BlackstoneDr. Jann Blackstone specializes in divorce, child custody, co-parenting, and stepfamily mediation and is often called the “Relationship Expert for Today’s Relationships” because of her “real life, down-to-earth” approach to relationship problem solving. She is the author of six books on divorce and parenting, the most popular, the Ex-etiquette series featuring Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation. She is also the author of the Ex-etiquette syndicated column and a frequent guest or consultant on television and radio talk shows, including Good Morning America (ABC), The Today Show (NBC), Keeping Kids Healthy (PBS), the Early Show (CBS), and The Oprah Winfrey Show. She has been the featured expert in many magazines, including, Child, Parents, Parenting, Newsweek, Family Circle, More, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, BRIDES, Woman’s Day, and Working Mother Magazine.

In 1999, Dr. Jann founded and became the first Director of Bonus Families®, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization working to change the way society views stepfamilies by supplying up-to-date co-parenting information via its Web site, counseling, mediation, and a worldwide support group network. They prefer to use the word “bonus” to the word step. Step implies negative things; however, a “bonus” is a reward for a job well done. “Bonus…a step in the right direction.”