Q: I have been married for six months to a man who has a 10-year-old daughter — and an ex-wife who drives me crazy! The child visits us every other weekend and has dinner with us every Tuesday. We get along just fine, but last week while preparing dinner she confided that her mother just bought her a bra. She’s 10 years old! I just do not agree with this. What’s good exetiquette?

A: Our first question aside from any ex-etiquette consideration is, does the child need a bra? Sometimes decisions like this are based purely on age — not on need — and it’s truly a decision that should be made based on the child’s physical development, not on how old they are.

That said, in your case, good exetiquette would be to stay out of it. The parenting plan you describe means that mom is the primary care-giver and is actively involved with the child. If she determines the child needs a bra, then it’s her call.

The fact that your bonus daughter was sharing this tidbit of information means that she feels close to you.

Congratulations on a job well done. For this reason, we hope your response was positive and not horrified to the extent that you alienate her for future confidences. Saying something like, “Oh my, how ridiculous, you’re only 10!” undermines mom’s judgment and diminishes the child’s feeling of confidence. It will be difficult to get back her trust if you make her feel stupid for confiding in you.

Kids need as many confidants as possible and if you develop a positive relationship with her mother, by comparing notes without jeopardizing confidences, you will have a more complete picture of who this child really is. It will also give both of you insight as to how to be the most sensitive when handling sensitive issues.

Speaking of which … Get ready: One of the most common irritants we have discussed with moms and bonus moms is when a daughter starts her period at dad’s, and bonus mom takes over and doesn’t fill in mom. Most moms feel it is their job to be there with their daughter at this time and greatly resent not being kept in the loop. So keep this in mind and use this time to build a relationship with mom that will enable you to work together in the best interest of this child.

One more thing to consider: Don’t leave dad out of the loop while all this female bonding is going on. If your bonus daughter is like most girls, she will hate talking about all this with dad and forcing her to do so may embarrass them both. Just make sure she knows that he is being kept up to date, and if they choose to talk about it, that’s up to them.

Dr. Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). 

— McClatchy-Tribune