Q I’ve never been married and I’m engaged to a man who has a 10-year old son from a previous marriage. At first, the boy and I got along very well, but now that his dad and I are getting closer, he’s lashing out at me in subtle ways. How do I help him understand that I love his dad and him and that I am not a threat to his relationship with his dad – or his mom?

A: I should really have my wife answer this question – she’s been dealing with the same issues with me and my children for a while. The first thing is to recognize that it’s going to take a while for things to smooth out between you and your prospective stepson.

There are a number of things going on. First, he sees you as (a) interrupting the relationship between him and his father and (b) trying to replace his mother. Second, the fact that his father is going out with you and may get married may be threatening his fantasy that his dad and mom (I’m assuming she’s still alive) will get back together. Third, he may be lashing out at you because he feels guilty that by liking you he’s betraying his mother, and that he can’t love two people at the same time.

It’s a complicated situation that you need to give a lot of time. A few things to try:

• Have a talk with the boy about how you’re not trying to replace his mother and how you know how important his relationships with his father is and that you aren’t trying to get in between them.

• Try to schedule some one-on-one time with you and the boy so that you can start working on a relationship of your own, one that isn’t based on the father.

• Encourage your fiance to go out on “dates” with his son so they can have some special time together without you. That may help make him feel a little more secure about his relationship with his dad.

Armin Brott’s most recent books are “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, Second Edition,” “Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change” and “Fathering Your Toddler: A Dad’s Guide to the Second and Third Years.” You can reach him through his Web site at www.mrdad.com.

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