LET CHILDREN CHOOSE STEPPARENT NAMES
"Dad keeps telling me to call her 'Mom.' But she's not my real mom, and I'm not going to call her that."
Stepparents often wish children would call them Mom or Dad, but the kids aren't always comfortable with that idea. To lessen stepfamily tensions, let the children decide what to call their newfound parents.
Very young children sometimes are eager to call stepparents Mom or Dad; older children do not always see it that way. They may resent being forced to call new stepparents Mom or Dad, adding pressure to an already tense situation.
The terms Mom and Dad indicate a close nurturing relationship that has grown since the child was an infant. It may not feel right to call the stepparent by such a personal name.
But over time, emotional bonding can become strong enough for children to use these names for stepparents. If the name starts out as Mary or John, and warms up to Mom or Dad, it will be more natural and will allow the children to make their own choice.
Remember, words with that much meaning will only be used with trust and in time.
Family Life Specialist
Iowa StateUniversity Extension
Ames, IA 50011