Should stepmom try to get along with his first wife

Getting to know and trying to get along with my step kids is keeping me on my toes, and is more of a challenge than I had expected. I have been reading about blended families who spend family time with ex-spouses on holidays, and even on vacations, so kids can enjoy a sense of stability and continuity.  I really do want to help make their transition to living in a step family easier for my step kids, but is it really necessary for me to be friends with their mother?

Do a stepmom and biological mom have to be friends

In a word, no. But you do have to put on your big girl boots, put your own feelings aside and put the kids first. If your kids are going to be able to cope in a world of shared custody and revolving residences, you and your blended family spouse, and his ex-wife, need to look at the bigger picture. You do not have to be friends, but you all must be able to function as co-parents.  What is best for the kids is for their parents to be able to manage regular communication, negotiation, and problem solving, in ways that benefit the children. With that in mind, here are tips to help new wives and ex-wives get along.

Have a goal in mind.  Visualize the relationship between you and the kids’ mother. If see yourself arguing with her, or wanting to smack her because she makes you so mad, you can only continue to resent her. You must want to get along with each other.  It sounds simple, but is really the crux of the matter.  People who want to get along make it happen.  People who do not want to get along never manage to.  Picture a working relationship with the kids as your first and only priority

Understand that your step kids already have a mother. Do not try to be their mother, try to take over, or question parenting methods their mother uses. Do not ask your step kids to call you Mom. The kids may feel uncomfortable with it, and their bio mom will almost surely resent it. When speaking to or about their mother, let your step kids hear a respectful tone in your voice.

Make nice

A good way to establish the beginnings of good communication with the ex-wife is to compliment her.

If you think she is a good mother, say so. Tell her you think her kids are great, and thank her for doing a good job with them. Let her hear you speaking kindly of her in front of the kids. Ask her opinion.If you are not sure how to handle a situation, put your big girl boots back on, pick up the phone and ask her what she would do.  Many step moms are afraid to do this, worried it might give the ex-wife an edge; but the truth is, if you ask for help, you might earn her respect as well as some help.

Stepmoms can be part of the solution, not part of the problem

If you and your blended family partner are raising children together after divorce and remarriage, good communication between you and the children’s other parent is not a choice, it is your obligation as parents.  When you marry a man with children from a previous marriage, you promise to do everything you can to support him through life, which means you do not cause him trouble. Your step family needs you to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Understand that your husband is tied to his children by more than obligation, and be generous with your cooperation. Never, ever say negative things about his ex-wife when the kids might overhear. Kids have just as much trouble coping with remarriage as they do divorce; being surrounded by positive energy can only make things easier on everyone.

So, whether or not you and the ex-wife get along personally, do your best to create a working relationship that focuses on the needs of your step kids. Stay out of relationship issues between your spouse and his ex, talk her up to her kids, and be available to discuss problems and find solutions. Blended family life has enough challenges. Try to keep communications with your step family counterpart from being one of them. If you need additional assistance, contact The Blended and Step Family for coaching.