Q: For three years I’ve been a bonusmom to a wonderful 5-year-old boy. His mom and bonusdad now have a 6-month-old baby. My bonus-son has had a hard time adjusting. He has recently begun saying that he’s sad that his mom and dad don’t live together. On occasion he doesn’t want to come to his dad’s because he wants to stay with his baby brother. On other occasions he doesn’t want to leave our house. He says he wants us all to live together. How can we help him adjust now that he’s aware his life is different from others?

A: Statistics tell us that close to 40 percent of the kids in the U.S. do not live with both biological parents, so your bonus-son’s life isn’t that different — but it has certainly changed and that’s what he needs help adjusting to.

You can help him adjust by keeping his needs in the forefront, and openly problem-solving so he can see all the adults in his life positively work through conflict. Try to keep the homes from polarizing by always looking for solutions to problems and never badmouthing each other. Do your best to keep communication open by comparing notes often, and following the 10 rules of good ex-etiquette for parents (www.bonusfamilies.com key word: ten rules) can be a good guide.

Adding a child to a stepfamily can be quite complicated. Allegiances are already being tested by the very nature of the family unit. It will help if both homes look for ways to spend one-on-one time with the older child during their normal routine and try not to make changes that the older child will equate with the new baby’s arrival. In other words, avoid saying things like, “Now that the baby’s here, it’s time for the big boy to start preschool.” The “big boy” might think he has to leave Mommy or Daddy because a new baby has come to live at his house and then resent the baby for the change. In actuality, it’s his age that dictated the change, not the baby’s arrival. Make that apparent.

Kids often ask their parents and bonusparents which child they love more. Although a new child actually bonds all the members of a bonusfamily and he or she is related to everyone equally, remember to emphasize each child’s individuality. Make sure they know you see them as unique and that the new sibling will add happiness to their life, not detract the attention of a beloved parent or bonusparent.

As a final point, just about all kids, no matter their age, entertain a wish that their parents reconcile. Even adult children who intellectually understand why their parents divorced and have great relationships with bonusparents, have told us that at times they still secretly wish their parents would get back together. If your child is talking about it, ease his anxiety by making sure he understands that you both still love him — and that will never change. 

Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).