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Health & Spirit

Older sister struggles to describe family relationship

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My mother was a single mom for most of my childhood. I was an only child. When I was 18, my mama got remarried. My stepdad and I get along really well, so no problems there.

I don't call my stepfather "Dad." I call him by his name, "Jack."

This has never been an issue, but my little sister, "Anna," seems to have a problem with it.

My little sister was born two years after our mom and Jack got married. I am 28 and she is 8 years old.

She has commented several times on the fact that I call my stepdad by his name instead of calling him "Daddy," and it's clear that this really bothers her.

We don't want to just ignore the issue, but at the same time, we're not really sure how to deal with it without accidentally making it worse.

She's a smart kid, but she's also a bit developmentally behind, and so explaining to her the idea of stepparents and half-siblings is a little bit daunting.

How do you tell a kid, "Well, your dad is not related to me the same way he is to you" without making her think there's something wrong, when she still has trouble identifying that our cousins (who are very close in age to her) are our cousins, and not her aunts?

We tried telling her that I call him by his first name because I'm a grown-up, but it wasn't very effective in putting her mind to rest. Do you have any suggestions for how I can handle this?

-- Big Sister Brenda

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