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“How can I be a good stepmum to kids who don’t want me?”

At 32 I’ve met the man of my dreams and we are to be married in the autumn. I’m really looking forward to married life and we get on so well I know I’ll be happy. My only worry is that he has two children, aged 14 and 9, and they will be with us every weekend and part of school holidays. I’ve met them and they’re very nice kids and have lovely manners but they don’t show any sign of wanting me in their lives. Friends have warned me they could make things very uncomfortable and even my mother gets anxious when I mention them. I don’t want to feel like a wicked stepmother, but how can I make this work when so many others have failed. Claire

Denise says: I know what I’d like to do with friends who prophesy doom and create fear where none need exist. Each time I do an item on television about stepping I hear from dozens of people who have enjoyed being a stepmum or dad or who have huge affection and respect for the man or woman who came into their lives and contributed to their happiness. The trouble is that stories about the wicked stepmother or father make headlines so we get a lot of them. I’m a stepmum and it’s been one of the loveliest parts of my life. Forget advice like, “Start as you mean to go on!” Feel your way. Remember that they will have been used to Dad’s undivided attention on access weekends so, at the beginning, I’d make sure they still get that. Let them sit in the front passenger seat some of the time if you’re out in the car and have outings with Dad occasionally while you have time off with your feet up. Don’t try to ‘mother’ them. They already have one of those but, in time, you can be a friend. Be interested in their lives. Find out in advance about their food likes and dislikes and leave discipline, if it’s needed, to Dad. And in the unlikely event that you do have problems, Family Lives (familylives.org.uk, 0808 800 2222) has very good advice for parents and step-parents alike.

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