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Q. My husband and I have partial custody of his 4-year-old son, and we just had a baby girl. My parents lavish our daughter with attention and gifts, but they totally ignore my stepson. Why won't they accept him?
Patricia Dunn Horn, L.C.P.C., a counselor on the staff of the Catholic Charities in Alton, Illinois, answers:
A. Start by giving your parents the benefit of the doubt; they may not be aware of how hurtful their actions are. Gently, but firmly, let them know that their behavior wounds not only your stepson, but you and your husband as well.
You can also tell them that from now on you will accept presents for the baby only on special occasions -- and only if equal treatment is given to her brother. In the meantime, give them plenty of opportunities to bond with your stepson so that they will come to embrace him.