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Ask Laura: Disciplining Stepchildren

Disagreements over stepchildren are very common, since over two thirds of American families are blended. Your husband may believe it's his right to decide how to raise the kids, and may hesitate to be strict out of guilt. However, letting them run wild won't remove the pain of the divorce, and undermining your authority only adds to their confusion, not to mention how it hurts you. Explain why you're upset, such as "I'm frustrated when you let the girls do something I asked them not to—I end up the bad guy and feel like I'm not important in this family." Keeping your marriage strong requires that you're fully accepted as a family member by your husband's validating your role as a parent. It's good that you're addressing the problem now, and as long as the kids' welfare stays in the forefront, I'm confident you'll both work together to create a loving and supportive home for all of you.

Laura Berman, Ph.D., author of Talking to Your Kids About Sex, runs a sex therapy clinic in Chicago.