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How can I make my girlfriend's children accept me?

Q: My girlfriend is a widow with 2 daughters of ages 7 and 10. Their father died in an accident 7 years ago. The children have struggled to accept me. The younger one used to be very rude to me. I had the impression that this was instigated by the older one, but she has improved over the last 3 months, although her rudeness relapses. The older daughter is even more problematic. She is downright obnoxious and seems to want to goad me into getting angry and leaving. Deep down, I feel that this is some sick game where she will win if I leave. Out of 10, 9 times I do not react. Sometimes she feigns illness and pain in order to solicit her mother's attention, who gets very stressed. Today she kicked me hard on the shin, drawing blood, when I reacted angrily, she yelled blue murder and I felt like a child abuser. Her mother spoke to her about the incident later, but she denied kicking me. I have 3 grown children of my own, the youngest is still at school. I am divorced and the two youngest of my children live with me at home. The eldest has left the nest and supports herself. On the whole I feel they are stable, well adjusted children. They think I am crazy for putting up with these monsters. My girlfriend and I get along very well and are enjoying our relationship. What can I do to improve the relationship with her children? Will they grow out of this behaviour?

A:I think that the child's mother must take an active part in socialising her daughters. They may harbour some resentment towards you and therefore be unlikely to pay attention to what you say. As you have sensed, the girls may think that they will have the mother to themselves if you were not in the picture. It is her responsibility to talk to them at length and convince them that a joint home like yours can only survive when everybody observes the rules of courtesy and mutual consideration. If you are not able to handle this at home, there should be no hesitation to consult a Psychologist or Counsellor. A change for the better is possible, but would require some knowledge on how to handle the problem and patience on everybody's part.

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