Readers Respond: What to Call a Step-Parent?

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We recently published an article – “The Trouble With Labels: What Do You Call A Stepmom?” – on the tricky situations that can arise in blended families.

In the words of one step-mom, “The only time I truly become uncomfortable is when the other children at [my stepson's] school refer to me as his mom. I’ll enter the classroom to pick D up, and all the children start saying, ‘D, your mom is here’ It’s confusing for him when he turns around and it’s me instead. And it’s awkward to correct these children who may not understand divorce and that a boy can have both a mommy and a stepmommy.”

We asked our readers to weigh in on what to call a step-parent and were overwhelmed by the responses. One thing nearly everyone agreed on when it comes to the blended family name game was the importance of flexibility, communication and considering the feelings of the other parent. Here are some of the solutions we heard:

The Step-Parent’s First Name

“My kids call their step-DAD by his name….out of respect to their father” – Kat

For many blended families, the most comfortable option is to call the step-mother or step-father by his or her first name. This prevents biological parents from feeling displaced which is especially important in order to maintain a civil relationship between co-parents. 

“They call me by my first name. They already have a Mom, and I wanted to make sure that they knew I wasn’t trying to take her place. They call me their step-mom if they are talking about me to someone, it doesn’t bother me in the least.” – Nicole

A Special Nickname

“I call my step-mom “Mom” or “Mama Aries” but my son calls her “Grandma Aries” never Grandma. And I call my mom ‘Mommy'” – Elise

Some may feel it is disrespectful for children to call adults by their first name. In that case, one solution is to come up with an affectionate nickname or title for the step-parent. This avoids conflict while reinforcing the idea that the step-parent is a valued member of the family.

“My three older kids call my husband (their stepdad) Pops! I feel he deserves a title since he is here in the home helping me raise them and here when they are sick. I dont think the other parent should feel threatened…it doesnt mean they are replaced. It takes a village!” – Melanie

“Mom” or “Dad”

“My daughter calls her step-dad “The Dadda” and now so we all. In our house he IS the Dad regardless of his biological relationship to our three girls. I’ve become “The Mamma” too. :)” – Meg

In some situations, especially when the child was very young when the step-parent entered his or her life, or if the child does not have much contact with their biological parent, they may want to call the step-parent “Mom” or “Dad.” This should be carefully discussed by all parents, with the feelings of the child considered. Hopefully it can be seen only as an indication of the closeness between child and step-parent, rather than a slight towards the biological mother or father. 

“My daughter has chosen to call her stepdad “daddy” and her dad “tomdad.” Her stepdad is more of a dad to her than her biological dad will ever be. This is, by no means, the case in every situation. God blessed me with a great man in my second marriage and for that I am very grateful! I think every situation and every child is different. I never asked my daughter to call my husband anything, we left it 100% up to her. At first she called him by his name and then our first Christmas together as a family, she woke up and called him Daddy… it was the best present he could have asked for!” – Season

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