Q: My mom passed away five years ago, leaving my stepdad as the only grandparent my children have. My children, ages 13 and 14, adore him. Several weeks ago I received a phone call from him telling me that he and his new wife had been talking and they decided that since my mother was dead, technically he is no longer my stepdad. Therefore they were no longer sending birthday and Christmas gifts. When he remarried we encouraged his new wife to visit with him, but she always declined. My question is this … how do I explain this to my children?

A: If you have been reading this column for any length of time you know that situations like this make us crazy. When people bail on kids, it’s bad ex-etiquette at its height. Your responsibility to children, especially children who love you as their only living grandparent, doesn’t stop because the biological grandparent passes away.

Unfortunately, your stepfather and his new wife are correct — they have no legal obligation to interact with you or your children. The obligation, however, is a moral one. If your stepfather acted as a grandparent to your children when your mother was alive, then his continued presence is important to your children’s security and ability to cope with the passing of their grandmother.

That said, we certainly understand the desire to get on with one’s life after remarriage and having to deal with your new spouse’s former stepgrandchildren could be perceived as a big fat pain. However, it’s what your stepfather signed up for when he married your mother. It really shouldn’t change because she passed on — and he should have explained that to new wife right from the beginning. Not taking the stand, and possibly allowing her to dictate how he handles past obligations, is just more bad ex-etiquette. At this point, it would be best if grandpa rethought his approach.

Addressing what you should say to your kids: They are teenagers and are probably already aware that “Grandpa” hasn’t been around that much since his remarriage. We suggest the truth, but when you talk to them the important thing to address is that his lack of interaction is in no way their fault. Don’t let them blame themselves — and remember ex-etiquette rule No. 3 — don’t badmouth.

Grandpa may see the error of his ways and attempt to fix things down the road. Meanwhile, you have told the kids what a rat he is and you can see how that may interfere in the healing process. We would continue to send cards or gifts to them for a while. His new wife may adjust in time and cutting off communication altogether could backfire. Watch the situation carefully, and if things don’t change, that’s when we suggest that you taper off.

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). Reach them at: eebonusfamilies.com