Accepting the Step: When Your Child Has a New Parentby Brooke Billings
Single parenthood can be a confusing world to navigate. Just when I thought I was starting to figure my world out, my five-year-old son dropped the bomb that he was going to have two moms!
You can imagine my surprise upon hearing this, as his dad and his now step-mom had only been dating for a few months. When your child has a new parent - a step-parent - a whole new playing field is created. There is a new player in the game, and trying to figure out this persons role can be incredibly difficult. The following advice has helped me along the road to creating a working relationship with my son’s step-mother.
You Don’t Have to Like Her
I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked if I like my ex’s wife. What I tell them is, “She loves Christian, and that is really the only thing that matters to me.” I am not saying I don’t like her, but the fact of the matter is that it makes no difference if I like her or not. To be perfectly honest, we go back and forth. We have been friends, and we have not gotten along. But at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is that she is good to my son and I cannot ask more of her than that.
Be Civil in Front of the Children
Don’t bad mouth your ex’s new spouse in front of your child. No matter how ridiculous you think he or she is, that ridiculous person is now a part of your child’s family. Hold your tongue. Wait until you are with your friends and there are no children around if you really need to vent. The last thing that you want to do is put extra emotional strain on your child about this situation. He is going through a lot as it is, getting a new parent isn’t black and white for him either. When all else fails, remember what your mom always told you. “If you can’t say something nice…”
Talk to Your Ex
Be honest with your ex if there is something bothering you about his/her new spouse that directly affects your child.If it does not directly affect your child, your ex is going to think you are just being catty or jealous and won’t bother listening to you. But if you are genuinely concerned that something the Step is doing affecting your child, talk to your ex and explain your concern.
You will also want to talk to the ex-partner about what role the Step is going to take on. Sometimes it will be easier for you and the Step to handle travel arrangements, schedules, and other issues. I know that when it comes to schedules, my ex is admittedly not the greatest. So it makes more sense for the Step and I to handle this. It works for us. Maybe you don’t want to deal with the Step at all, which is fine. Communicate that to your ex. Make sure he or she knows where your level of comfort is in dealing with the Step.
Be There for Your Child
As I mentioned above, this can be a difficult transition for your child. Make sure that you talk to them, and let them know that you are always there for them to turn to. If your child is having problems with the idea of sharing their other parent with the Step, arrange a family meeting and address the issues. Make sure that your child doesn’t feel like they, and their feelings, are being pushed to the side. Be your child’s champion. Make sure they know that you are in their corner.
Never forget that you are the parent. No matter how cool the Step is, they will never take your place in your child’s heart.