When Your Kids Get a New Stepmom, Here are 5 Things Not to Do

Kelly E.

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Step-parents are a common part of my family, as they are in many families today.

The birth mom/stepmom dynamic can be strained, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, placing simple boundaries around your own attitudes and behaviors makes it easier on everyone. It really helps.

These are five things I won’t be doing with my kids’ new stepmom:

1. Telling my kids what they can call her

I know a lot of moms struggle with this one. I’ve even seen some get quite nasty about it: “Over my dead body they’ll call HER mom!”

Personally, I’m not worried what my children decide to call their stepmom. It’s completely up to them.

Your relationship with your children isn’t based on the title they give you, neither is it reduced by them calling someone else “mom”.

2. Ignoring, excluding, or leaving her out of family events

Blended family events are unavoidable. There are concerts, prize-givings, productions, and, when the kids grow up, graduations, weddings, and baby showers. As a child, I always appreciated seeing my parents getting along at these events. My two moms (and dad) made an effort to say hi, talk to each other, and celebrate whatever was happening — together. I want to do the same.

Last year, for my daughter’s dance comps, I wanted to make their dad and stepmom feel included. A new costume was needed at the last minute. Instead of doing it myself, I asked my ex and his wife if they’d like to help. They’re both creative people and she’s a talented seamstress. We each made one part of the costume and it looked incredible! On the night of the competition my ex sent me a text. “She looks great! Awesome team effort.” Knowing three of her parents had contributed to her costume was special for my daughter and the pride showed on her face (she won that dance too!)

We don’t have to be best buddies to include the other parents in our children’s lives. Including their stepmom can be as simple as making sure she receives an invite with her name on it, or helping your children make her a birthday card.

3. Feeling bad when my kids talk about her

I don’t want any topics to be off limits in my house. My children spend almost half the week with their dad and his wife. If my kids can’t talk about her at my house, they’ll be unable to share a huge part of their lives with me.

They’re excited about what they do in the weekends. They love their stepmom. I understand how hearing about those things could be upsetting for some moms — it’s a strange, complex mess of emotions when relationships end and new ones begin — but we can be happy that our kids are happy. I’m relieved that they’re enjoying themselves when they’re at their dads. I’m relieved that there is a family that loves and supports them in both houses.

4. Being jealous of their time with her

When I hear about the cool things they do with their stepmom, I think it’s a bonus! How awesome that my children have the benefit of someone else’s creative talent, experiences, and interests. We can’t be everything and do everything we want to with our kids — we just don’t have the time or skills.

My kids’ future stepmom is incredibly creative and the sewing projects they do with her are gorgeous. As a homeschooling mom, that means I can focus on other projects and activities knowing she’s got sewing covered. It takes the pressure off!

If your kids stepmom is very different to you, that could be a good thing! It gives balance to your kids' lives.

5. Thinking of her as unimportant

Good step parents do much of the parenting that birth parents do but without much credit. They comfort, advice, teach, support, encourage, and love their step children. They make a valuable contribution in their lives.

Step parents, along with birth parents, also model values, relationships, and communication. They might do less of the disciplinary work — neuroscience lecturer and parenting educator, Nathan Wallis, says they should leave that to the parents where they can — but stepparents play a huge role in creating a family.

Families are created out of the culture parents design together. The birth parent and stepparent decide how the family operates, how they treat each other, and what they value. That’s incredibly important!

Stepmoms are hardly ever the evil characters the movies make them out to be. They’re women who care for kids who aren’t their own blood and love them as if they are. It’s not an easy job — they have less power than a birth parent and often get a hard time from the kids. They put a lot of pressure on themselves to bond with children they see part-time and (if the kids are older) haven’t known as cute little babies.

My own stepmom is incredible. I feel very blessed to have two wonderful moms and I’m pretty sure my kids will feel the same way about their two moms.

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