Ask an Expert: Gary, My In-Laws Do Not Want to Include Their Step-Granddaughter in the Family
Q: I have two wonderful children and a great partner who is only the biological to my son who is the youngest, but he is still dad and the only dad my daughter age 8 has ever had. I'm having a problem with his family. They seem to not want to include my daughter in the family and treat her the same. His mother says is that she feels we are forcing my daughter on her when all we ask is for his family to respect the choice that my partner and daughter made together. Now I worry my daughter might suffer emotionally because of the situation. How can I help so that she feel confident that she is not any less loved than her new brother. I think that it's hard for me to understand because I come from a blended family where ex-husbands will be at the family table at holidays with no problems.
A: Sadly your husband's family is taking an immature and self-centered view of relationships. They should embrace your daughter as the half-sister to her brother. Indeed she is biologically connected to the family from the perspective of the children and that should be honoured.
Broadly, you have two choices:
Your husband can make clear the importance of the relationship between the children and ask his parents that they respect the relationship of the son with his sister. He can explain that by disassociating from the daughter they actually harm the son. I would hope that his talking some sense into them would clear up this issue. He should provide this feedback and not in anger. We are not out to hurt his parents either, but make them aware of the harm they can cause their grandson by so narrow a view, let alone the upset they cause his sister.
If this doesn't work, then together you have to decide on another course of action. That can include your family separating from his parents and not allowing your son to see the grandparents on the basis of their emotional indifference to their step-granddaughter and for not honouring the their grandson's relationship to his sister.
If however, you agree to allow the grandparents to see your son, you may have to explain matters to your daughter. It is reasonable to be forthright and explain that the grandparents are shortsighted and that their choices are not a reflection on your daughter. Having said that though, there remains a risk of developing a sibling rivalry or disconnect if daughter is jealous of her brother.
Note to all "step-grandparents" out there. Treat all your children with dignity and respect. To only accept a biologically connected child to you is ego-centric and contrary to the needs of your grandchild with their half or step siblings. You bring disharmony to your children's family, which is not in the interest of your grandchildren.