prettyndsweet12 asks: My dad is getting married which means I’ll have lots of new family members; a stepmom, two stepbrothers, a stepsister, and a step-niece, which brings up a question: I’ve never had a stepmom or step siblings before; do you have any tips or advice on that? But my number one question is what do I call her???
Hi prettyndsweet12 –
There are no rules about stepfamilies. It sounds like you have a great attitude about them (curiosity and excitement, rather than dread and plans-to-dislike). So my main suggestion would be to hold onto that attitude, and give them all a chance. You’ll like some more than others, and that’s fine.
You might also find that one or more of your new stepsiblings (or your step-niece) has absolutely no interest in becoming friends with you. For those, just give them time.
I can’t tell you how many friends and girlfriends Handsome has brought into my life, many of whom were bothered by me or just wanted nothing to do with me at first. But over time, almost all of them have fallen in love with me, just because I’ve stayed good-natured and friendly with them throughout. And those few others who just could never get to liking me, I’ve just accepted that that’s their problem; they still tolerate me, so Handsome can still be friendly with them. They’ll just never get to know how fun and wonderful I can be, which is sad for them.
If you have that experience with any of these new family members, then I’d say the same thing – too bad for them. Suckers!
Now, though, when it comes to your stepmother, that’s a very interesting issue. Poor stepmothers – fairy tales have beaten up on them for centuries, scaring kids into thinking they’re jealous meanies who’ll send them off to get killed in forests, or keep them cleaning houses instead of attending the ball, etc. Actually, what I’ve found is that most stepmothers are nervous, eager to please, and desperate to win over their new stepkids’ affection. So you want to know what best you can do with her? WELCOME her! Tell her you’re glad to have her in your family! That will just bowl her over.
In terms of what you should call her, that should probably come from a discussion between the three of you (you, your dad, and her). If your mother is still alive, she might not want you to call your stepmother “Mom” or “Mother,” but if she’s okay with it, you could consider that. Most kids I know call their step-parents by their first names, just as they would an uncle or aunt. Another thought might be to come up with another name for her that is specific to your relationship. In the way that lots of kids have special pet names for a grandparent, maybe you could have something like that.
What matters is that it’s something all three of you can agree on. And in this, it’s important that you stand your ground. If she wants you to call her “Mom” and you don’t feel comfortable with that, tell her so. It’s even okay if you agree to a timed name – for example, “I’m going to call you Cathy for the first year. Then I’ll consider changing it.”
Again, the big issue here is that all of you want to accept each other. That is so fantastic! How you do it is far less important than the fact that you all want it.
After all, having a step-parent doesn’t have to be like Cinderella. It could be lots of fun instead, like The Brady Bunch or The Sound of Music (well, fun except for their having to flee the Nazis. But that wasn’t the stepmother’s fault!).
Embrace them, and the odds are very high that most, if not all, of them will embrace you. This is your future. Make it great!
Congratulations to you all!