Allen Berger, Ph.D.
Kids call their new step-parent
You do not automatically become a parent to your stepchildren; you have to earn the privilege. Accept that it takes time for a blended family to integrate. Integration into a stepfamily does not happen overnight. Stay persistent, and you will slowly become a family.
What name should kids call a step-parent? When two people come together, remarry, and have children from their previous marriage, there are many, many adjustment problems. It’s important to know that whenever we add or subtract someone from our relationship that it is going to create stress, because we have to adjust to these new people in our life or to this new circumstance in our life.
So, when two people come together to blend a family, their children are experiencing that as well, not just them. So their children are now experiencing some new people added to their life, and the challenge for children is, oftentimes, this is all done without them having any decision in the process. They are experiencing that because their mom or dad wants that to happen, not necessarily because they do. Appreciating that, I think, becomes very important, because we need to change some of the expectations, which includes what name should kids call a step-parent?
Just because I marry someone, doesn’t mean that that person’s children are going to respect me and feel connected to me. What I often say is that we have to earn the privilege to become a parent to a stepchild. And, what that means is that I first need to take the time to develop a relationship with that child, to get to know that child, let that child get to know me, and build a relationship where I’m not putting expectations on it, not telling that child who they should be or what they should be, or even how to talk to me. They can call me “Allen” if they want. That’s fine. They don’t need to call me anything else. I don’t need any of that. What do I want though is to find a way to connect to them. And, if we connect in that way, then a relationship will develop, and it will unfold as naturally as possible. When we try to force that to happen because of our anxiety, it’s not going to happen. We’re going to create more problems.
So, take it easy. Take it slow. Easy does it, in this case. Really spend the time to get to know that other child, and ask your partner to do the same with your child. You know, create moments where you guys are doing that together and that will give you the best chance to make the best adjustment.
Accept that it takes time for a blended family to integrate. Integration into a stepfamily does not happen overnight. Stay persistent, and you will slowly become a family, and the issue of what name should kids call a step-parent will just be part of the entire transition.
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