Dear Dr. Jann: My five and seven year old love spending time with their dad and his wife.  I am happy about this but my son is allergic to dogs and their father has a dog.  My son comes home sneezing and congested and this upsets me.  What can I do?

Dr. Jann says: The first thing you do is talk to dad about your concerns. Although this seems obvious—he should know his child has allergies–people who do not suffer from allergies often do not take allergies seriously.

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Start with making an appointment with your son’s allergy doctor so you can both be on the same page with an allergy regime. His doctor can explain some of the things you can do—medications that might help—and precautions you can both put in place in your homes to make your child more comfortable.

Here’s something else to consider: The dog isn’t dad’s, but came with the deal when he married his wife.  Dad’s between a rock and a hard place—his child’s health or his wife’s beloved pet. (It shouldn’t be a choice, but in real life it is and he’s dragging his feet to keep peace in his home.) Plus, your son may love this pet and giving it up ( if that’s a possibility) may cause more stress than the occasional allergy symptoms. If this is the case, dad can keep dander down with frequent combings and baths, keep the furniture free of dog hair, and keep the animal away from your child as much as possible—maybe outside when your son is around.

Bottom line, solving this problem is no different than solving any problem with an ex: Communication! Listen to each other’s suggestions for solutions (Notice I didn’t say, “talk to each other.” Listening is far more important.) And, always use your child’s best interest as the criteria for any decision you might make.

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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.”