- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

After dating for quite some time, my husband and I were married last year. Shortly after, we found out we were expecting a baby. My husband’s 6-year-old daughter lives with us, and her mother is not in the picture.

As long as I have known her (since she was 3), my stepdaughter has had a problem with telling lies. I was raised in a strong Christian family where telling lies simply is unacceptable. I have tried very hard to convey this moral standard to my stepdaughter, but I am failing.

She was getting into trouble at school last year for telling lies to her teachers. And since her father deployed this fall, the problem seems to be escalating.

Because we have a new baby in the house, I am trying my best to keep my cool. Do you have any suggestions on how to solve this problem? I really do love her, and want the best for her. — Concerned Stepmom

Dear Stepmom, I can quickly identify things that could be affecting your stepdaughter’s behavior: her absent mother, which I’m sure is causing emotional turmoil for her; a new stepmother; a deployed father; and a new sibling. Your stepdaughter has two things in her favor: a caring stepmother who is trying to instill good values and trying to rectify the problem, and a school that communicated with you regarding her behavior.

These quick tips will help. First, I recommend she receive some counseling to rule out any trauma or other emotional problems. Counseling also could help alleviate any deployment-related stress and anxiety your stepdaughter may be feeling.

Check on your base to see if child and adolescent behavioral services are offered. You also can contact Military OneSource (800/342-9647) to speak with a clinician by phone. If warranted, they will connect you with a clinician in your community for an assessment, treatment or support. All services are free.

Collaborate with your stepdaughter’s school to adopt a “caught you being good” campaign. It appears she is caught every time she does something wrong, so she needs to be reminded even more when she does the right thing, such as helping you around the house, being nice to her younger sibling, being the teacher’s helper, etc.

I won’t “patholigize” your daughter’s behavior because although it is undesirable and could cause more problems if it continues, some of it is normal and age appropriate.

Stepmom, don’t be too hard on yourself. I think you can get through this.

Reader responses:

• Thank you so much for printing the letters you receive. I know your letters are real and true because I have experienced much of what is written about and I know many others whose lives parallel the letters you receive. Like the letter regarding the officers’ wives that was printed Aug. 30, for example.

Officers’ wives can be fake and phony more than anyone else. They are a clique who have nothing else better to do than live off their husband’s rank and make everyone feel like they don’t measure up. It’s not true, and I know it. I did not get caught up in the game.

My husband was prior enlisted, and I always have had a great-paying career. As a matter of fact, when my husband was an enlisted noncommissioned officer, the other enlisted spouses and I were the only ones who had careers and higher education. We would laugh at the officers’ wives who tried to get up and speak in front of us but had no formal education.

I was never privy to their club — until my husband completed officer candidate school and became a lieutenant. Now, all of a sudden, I can be included in their clique? I don’t think so. I have friends, and they will never be one of them.

• Why are people always writing to you, complaining about officers’ spouses? Maybe they are just jealous because their husbands did not have the wherewithal to become an officer, or maybe they regret not marrying one. Either way, I think The Times should stop printing that garbage.

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