Steve Harvey on Blended Families

"GMA" contributor Steve Harvey helps navigate the murky waters of "stepdom."

September 29, 2009, 2:24 PM

Sept. 30, 2009 — -- Steve Harvey knows from experience some of the challenges stepfamilies, or what he calls "blended families," face. Together, Harvey and his wife, Marjorie, have blended a brood of seven children from previous marriages.

"The first thing we did, we don't use the term stepchildren. I never refer to my youngest daughter as my stepdaughter. She is my daughter," Harvey said. "I don't want them to feel alienated when I introduce them."

Blending two families can be difficult, and Harvey tackled this topic with two couples on "Good Morning America."

Sharlene and Jay Boltz, from Cincinnati, have been married for a year and a half. Together they have four children, two from Sharlene's previous marriage and two from Jay's.

The Boltzes understand that children must make adjustments when families merge, but they want to know how they can help their kids adjust to the change because they are intermixed in ages.

"How do you get them to align? The ages do intermingle so the youngest is no longer the baby, the oldest is no longer the oldest," Sharlene said.

Harvey explained that his family created a system called "accountability partners" to help the children adjust to the changes.

"The two older ones, we have certain things that they can do that the younger ones can't do, and it's kind of to build a bond between those two," Harvey said.

Harvey said extending this privilege helps because neither child then feels like the lesser of the two.

While the Boltzes liked Harvey's idea, they said it is challenging because Jay's two children spend only every other weekend with them, something that Gil and Stephanie Gentry also struggle with.

The Gentrys, from Oklahoma City, have been together for five years. They have two children from Gil's previous marriage, an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old, and the Gentrys just welcomed their new baby, Dorian, into their family.

Gil's two children visit them every other weekend, and the Gentrys want to know the best way to handle each household having different rules and expectations of the children.

"It is not that our household has the right set, it is just a different set of rules," Stephanie said.

Harvey said that is a common problems families face and he advised Stephanie and Gil to "stay fast to the rules."

"Eventually somebody has to catch up because this can't keep being uncomfortable for us," Harvey said. "When you come here this is the way we do it over here."

Harvey suggested listening to the children's point of view, as he does in his family.

"We give them a say, you can say anything you want," Harvey said, adding that when the children are done talking he says, "OK, this is what is going to happen."

"GMA" viewers also wrote in to ask Harvey questions about their own challenges with blended families.

Gretchen Morales, from Clifton, N.J., asked, "It is the right move to 'disengage' when a young teen had stated that they will never consider you a parent?"

Having a child "disengage" is something Harvey said he can relate to.

"Believe it or not, I have seen that a little bit in my house too," Harvey said. "I just inform them that if you disengage, I can disengage too."

Harvey said that because he provided for his family, and unless his children want to take off the Air Jordans he bought or go to school "naked," they must start adapting to the rules.

"You can't disengage me when I'm making it happen for you," Harvey said. "At the end of the day you are the adult and this is the child."

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