Step Mums And Dads
Carly Raby (Participation Manager) gives expert video advice on: I hate my step dad - what can I do?; My mum hates my step mum and always bad-mouths her to me - what should I do?; My step dad treats his own family completely differently to me - what can I do? and more...
I like my step mum but I feel guilty about my mum - what should I do?
It's perfectly natural to feel guilty about your feelings towards step-family. Your step mum is someone that your dad has chosen to have a relationship with. And if you're still living at home or you're spending a lot of time with your dad then it's fantastic that you get on really well with your step mum because that will make that atmosphere feel a lot better. You don't need to feel guilty about how you feel about her because your mum is your mum and your mum will always be your mum and your step mum is in a very different role and you can have a very different relationship with her than you have with your mum. They're are two different people and you don't need to compare how you feel about each of those different people. They've got very different roles in your life.
My mum hates my step mum and always bad-mouths her to me - what should I do?
It's quite common, unfortunately, for stepmums and mums not to get on. They really need to deal with their feelings in their own way and talk to somebody apart from you, instead of talking to you about the feelings that they're having. Both of their responsibility is really to make sure that you are happy, both in your environment with your mum and with your stepmum. And they should be providing as much support as possible to you, to make that as easy for you as it can be. If they're not doing that as well as they can be, and they are being mean about each other or saying things that you really don't want to hear it makes it awkward for you, then you need to make sure you've got as much support as you can do for yourself. Talk to someone maybe outside your family about the feelings you're having and some strategies they can give you to cope with those feelings and cope with the situations. So maybe somebody on helpline or friends or family friends.
My step dad is very strict - does he have the right to set rules for me?
It's very difficult to answer whether step dads have the right to set rules for people because different families are different in their decisions about how much authority a step parent will have, and also it depends on how old you are, how long they're together for, and lots of other factors. If you feel that your stepdad is being overly strict, and is behaving in a way that you're not used to your parents behaving in, then it's really important that you're open with your mum, that you have discussions with her and your siblings about how he's behaving and what you find unacceptable, and how you'd like him to change his behavior to make sure that you're feeling as happy and comfortable as you can do in your own home.
My step dad treats his own family completely differently to me - what can I do?
If your own step dad is treating his family very differently to how he is treating you, it is important to have a discussion with your mum about how you are feeling, and with him if possible about the differences in how he is treating you. He might not realize he is doing it himself. And you need to feel happy and comfortable in your own home and it's obviously going to make home feel very uncomfortable and you feel very negative towards him. If you feel he is treating you unfairly, you need to be open and honest. And if they are not supportive when you are talking to them you need to make sure you've got some support from outside, either speaking with someone at school, family, friend, or finding someone whose job it is to support you a little bit more. Make sure you've got ways of coping with the feelings that you probably will be having.
I want to spend my birthday with my step family - how can I avoid upsetting my mum?
It's very difficult to work out how not to upset people when families separate and you're deciding where you want to be on special occasions. The most important thing to remember, is that it's you're birthday and you need to decide where you want to be on your birthday because it's your special day and you need to be somewhere that you feel happy and comfortable and the choice is going to be yours. You can make the choice to be in a place you want to be and try to make arrangements so that maybe later on in the day, you can spend time with other people, and they can feel they've had a bit of time during that day with you. But essentially, when your parents split up it is much harder to make decisions about things like that, and it might be that one year you do something, and the next year you do something different. Your parents will be aware that it will be harder for you to make those choices and they should be able to support you and make your choices alright for you, without them being too difficult and awkward.
My dad has had an affair - how can I accept my step mum when she destroyed my family?
It's really hard, if one of your parents has had an affair, for you to not feel angry with the person who you might feel split up your family. But essentially, if one of your parents has had an affair, that has been their choice too. And it's probably been because the relationship between the parents wasn't very good at that time - that they felt they weren't getting on very well, and that they would be happier with someone else. So really, it's important not to feel too angry with the person they've chosen to be with, and just accept that they've chosen not to be together, but they are happier with the person that they are with now. And try to get to know that person and give them a fair chance. It's quite usual to feel angry and have feelings towards them that are hard to deal with. And if you want to talk to somebody outside of your family- to help you deal with the feelings that you'll be having- that's a really good idea. Like a school counselor, friend, or someone on a help line, to give you tips and advice on how to cope with the feeling, and make sure you stay healthy.
Is it wrong to like my step grandparent more than my real grandparent?
I think with stepfamilies it's difficult not to feel bad if you like one person more than somebody else in your natural family. But essentially, people are just people, and your biological family are just people too. You'll like things about your stepfamily that you might not like about your real family, and vice versa. And it's great if you get along with your step-grandparents. That's fantastic, and that should just be a new addition to your family as a whole; that's the more people that you trust and you feel that you can rely on and talk to when things aren't too easy.
My dad is divorced and lonely - should I move in with him?
If your dad is divorced and lonely it's really difficult to make a decision that's right for you, because you might feel responsible for your dad. Your dad, if he's feeling down and lonely, needs to make sure that he gets help for himself to be as emotionally healthy as he can be. There are lots of organisations that can help your dad, but you need to make the choices that are right for you. You also need to stay happy and comfortable in the place that you live, and you need to make sure that the choices you're making are the ones that are right for you; not because you feel responsible for somebody else. It's possible to talk to people at school or talk to someone in your family about getting your dad about the help that he needs, but make sure that you get the help that you need too, and that the choices you make about where you live are ones that you're happy with, and that you're getting all your needs met as well as everybody else.
I was raised by my step dad. Now my real dad wants contact again - what should I do?
It's difficult to make decisions about contact with members of your family that you haven't been in touch with in the past. If you've been raised by a step-dad then that's the person that you might really think of as being your dad, and it's hard to get your head around there being somebody else who would like to be in that role. A really important thing to remember is that when your dad does get in touch, they are a person who hasn't been in your life so far. You won't know how you feel about this dad until you meet them for the first time and until you get back in touch with them. If you do get on with them, that doesn't take away from the relationship you've had with your step-dad who's raised you up until now. The decision about whether you get in touch with your dad or not should really be based on you feel, if that's something that you want to do and the feelings of family around you. Also consider their experiences of what your dad was like and whether they think that would be a good idea for you too.
There are lots of people in my new step family - how will I befriend them all?
It can be tricky when you become part of a step family because there are lots of extended people who you've never met before and you're not sure whether you'll get on with them or not. It's a bit like starting a new school or going to a new youth center, not knowing anyone from the beginning. You just have to take your time get them to get to know you a little bit and see what you've got in common with them. And just take it slowly and take it easy and it might be that you develop a whole new relationship with people who you'll be friends for life. It might be that you don't get on too well. Just take your time and get to know them slowly.
I feel like my dad's new family are more important to him than I am - what can I do?
Sometimes it might feel that your dad's new family are more important to him than you, but you are his family, and as your family has changed now, that's changed who he will consider as family. So, it might have gone from the attention all being on you to it being spread amongst more people. I'm sure that you're still the most important person to your dad, but if you're feeling upset or you're having emotions that are difficult to deal with right at the moment, then do take some time out and talk to somebody who can really listen to you about those feelings that you're having, and give you some tips on how to deal with it.
I feel like my mum is a different person now she's remarried - what should I do?
If you feel like your mum's a different person now that she's remarried, you really need to sit down and have a discussion with your mum about the things you miss about how she used to be and why she might be behaving differently to how she was behaving before. It might be good to talk to somebody else apart from your mum, someone outside of the family who can help you, someone at school or a friend, who can really discuss how she used to be and get perspective with you about whether the changes really have happened or if its about how you're feeling about the changes that have happened in your life.