mother is always concerned about doing the "appropriate"
thing and that is to be commended, but I have a concern about certain
actions on her part. I was hoping that you would tell me what would
be the "appropriate" thing for her to do in the following
sister has two children from a previous marriage and an "ours"
child plus two stepchildren with her current husband. Since my sisters
marriage, close to 10 years ago, my mother has consistently not
acknowledged the two stepchildren at birthdays or Christmas. Her
feeling is that they already have grandmothers and she is really
not related to them.
sister has tried on many occasions throughout the years to explain
how her actions make the children feel. She has told her in so many
different ways that whether they are stepchildren or not, they are
part of "her" family and that my mother should accept
them into the fold of our family.
We are really frustrated and don't know how to help her understand
that what she is doing is wrong, but maybe she will listen to you.
for listening! Susi B.
for writing about this important issue.
agree that your mothers behavior is likely hurting her stepgrandchildren.
The kids are absolutely part of your sisters family and your
mother should try to treat them as though they are part of the family.
co-author, William Merkel, a Ph.D. psychologist, addresses this
issue in our book.
present-giving can be lethal for kids. With stepfamilies, the childrens
schedules and boundaries are so complicated that kids often worry,
on a primitive level, about whether theyre truly members of
their family. Getting a gift is often a symbol of being included.
Relatives who suggestwith words or innocent oversightthat
kids arent really part of the family can spur powerful fears
and worries in children," he says.
in stepfamilies need to help their relatives try to view the world
from the kids point of view. Keep reminding your parents that
their stepgrandchildren really want to feel included.
well-meaning relatives simply dont know how to behave around
stepfamily members. Remarried parents can help their relatives by
giving them specific advice, he suggests. "Tell the relatives
that if theyre bringing a Valentines Day card for one
child, they should bring cards for all the children. Ask the relatives
to send holiday money or gifts to all the children."
sister can also help your mom connect with her stepkids by telling
her about their interests and suggesting activities that she can
do with them. With your help and your sisters help, hopefully
shell begin to view the world from her stepchildrens
point of view.
thanks for bringing up this important issue.
Cohn is co-author of "One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories
and Advice for Stepfamilies (www.stepfamilyadvice.com)
and co-host of Stepfamily Talk Radio, an internet radio show (www.stepfamilytalkradio.com).