Dear Dr. Jann: My husband and I have been married almost 5 years and I have an 8-year-old bonusdaughter. Our morning routine consists of 4 people (including my son) taking showers, eating breakfast, dressing … the normal hectic schedule of most households on a school morning!

This morning my bonusdaughter asked if I could dry her hair before she ate breakfast because “that’s how my mommy does it.” Keep in mind I’ve been drying her hair after breakfast for as long as my husband and I have been married because after she showers and dresses I dry my hair while she eats breakfast. Her mother has not remarried and it’s just the two of them getting ready in the morning. Should I change our routine at our house because “that’s how mommy does it”?

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Dr. Jann says: Most who are attempting to combine families have to admit to hearing the words, “That’s not how we do it at Mom’s (or Dad’s) house and will agree that it’s pretty close to hearing finger nails on a chalk board. And, if you have been reading our column and just about anything else we write you already know that a common thread throughout is consistency from house to house. However, your question is a perfect example to drive home that as much as you would like to coordinate efforts from house to house, things may differ based on lifestyle: fewer or more kids, single parent as opposed to remarried, working or stay at home caregivers, etc. All these things play into how one does the little things to start the day and as a result, sometimes they just can’t be the same at both homes.

While you want your bonusdaughter to be comfortable, you also want to help her realize that things may differ from house to house. An easy way to explain why you prefer to do it your way is to say exactly what you said to us, “Honey, we have four people getting ready at the same time at our house and we have to do it this way to make sure everyone gets out of the house on time.” You could then brainstorm together about other ways to get ready to demonstrate why you have chosen the way you have. You never know, while chatting with her as you do her hair, you might find a different way of getting ready that might actually save more time.

The key here is not to make the child feel badly about doing it differently than Mommy. She loves Mommy and it sounds as if she may be facing allegiance issues each time she identifies with you. So, plead your case based on lifestyle, not whose way is better, and you’ll both raise a child who loves both of her homes and is not troubled by why there are differences.

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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.”

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