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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What Do Your Stepchildren Call You?

I was talking with a therapist recently about a stepfamily she was counseling. The stepdad couldn't recognize that he was alienating his stepdaughter by insisting she call him Dad. The stepdaughter had a biological dad with a steady relationship and wasn't interested in calling anyone else in her life Dad.

As a stepparent, it's easier to take on a parental role if our stepchildren choose to call us Mom or Dad. But oftentimes, that doesn't happen. Demanding to be called a certain name is selfish and power-seeking. Our stepchildren need the freedom to choose what they feel comfortable calling us (within reason, of course).

My two girls wanted to call my husband, Dad, at an early age. However, their father was too insecure to allow it and made threatening comments to them if they talked about it. Several years into our marriage, the girls made the decision to call my husband, Dad, despite the opposition from their biological dad. The relationship with my husband over years of stepparenting created bonds strong enough to warrant the label, Dad. To remain at peace with their biological dad, they hid their decision and called my husband by his first name in front of their dad. However, now in their young adult years, they no longer hide their affectionate relationship and openly call him Dad, even with their biological father around.

On the other hand, my two stepchildren have always called me by my first name. I'm not crazy about it and would love to be called Mom but see little chance of that happening now. Since their biological mom passed away over five years ago, the loyalty conflict is even stronger, preventing them from calling anyone else Mom.

We can have a positive relationship with our stepchildren, regardless of whether they call us Mom or Dad or not. If we're involved as a caring stepparent, it's likely we're considered a parental figure, even if we don't carry the label we desire.



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