Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My girlfriend and I have been together for five months. She has a 9-year-old daughter who is very bright and very jealous of me because now her mother has two people in her life. The child has not lived with anyone but her mother since her parents divorced when she was a baby. She has frequent temper tantrums that make me uncomfortable. I raised a boy and a girl, and I never experienced that type of behavior. Sometimes this child is affectionate toward me and sometimes standoffish. Her mother and I are expecting a baby. Her daughter is excited because she has always wanted a sibling. They are planning to move into my house, but my girlfriend is nervous that my relationship with her daughter might not go well -- or get worse. There will be no relationship with my girlfriend without her daughter. The daughter has been seeing a psychologist to help her with her mixed emotions. What can I do to win this child's confidence?Want It to Work
DEAR WANT: Your children might not have had tantrums because their home life was stable; whereas, this child's suddenly is not. Try to see her world from her point of view. In less than six months, her mother has found a new partner, told her she is going to have a sibling and has hit her with a move. Any one of these stressors could throw off a stable and happy child; add the onset of adolescence into the mix and it's no wonder she is periodically exploding.
Nine is a challenging age, and she will continue to act out until she sees that another kind of behavior yields better and more positive results. You should not discipline her or express your disapproval to her (let her mother take the lead). Reassure her calmly and encourage her to talk -- even if what she says is hard for you to hear.
Visit the girl's counselor with her mother. Ask for recommendations and follow them.