We all know that the two parent, two child household is now just one of many, many combinations that make up a family. That said, how do we navigate traditional family dynamics with the new reality? What is the polite thing to call a former mother-in-law? Do you buy your step-dad a Father’s Day card? Do you continue to call your uncle’s husband your uncle? Do you have to have your half-sister in your wedding if you aren’t close? You’ll find all of the correct answers to these questions and more below:
Just kidding. For every familial relationship, for every holiday and reunion, for every plane ride back to your home town there is a new set of rules. So why not just stick to the basics:
When in doubt, be as kind as you can. Your step mom knows she’s not your mom, there is no need to remind her. Odds are, she’s not trying to be, she’s just trying to make you (and herself) feel as comfortable as possible. Why not indulge her? Instead of acting defensive around new family, no matter who they are, don’t punish them for not knowing you yet. Offer gracious thanks and try to interact.
Sometimes, it’s gonna be awkward. And that’s okay. If you are in a new relationship with someone who has kids or your elderly parent is getting remarried, whatever the case may be, there is plenty of uncharted territory. The only recourse is to accept this as a fact and try to move forward. That may even mean acknowledging the surprising nature of life, making a joke of it and pushing along.
New and “non-traditional” family can provide new and “non-traditional” love. The beauty of forging ahead into an uncharted family dynamic is that there aren’t a million examples all around you. This can feel lonely, but it can also be a good thing. Most people could talk for hours about their relationship with their mother, and it’s easy to compare and contrast which can often lead to one party feeling badly. But a blended family might have less to compare it to, leaving more room to avoid unnecessary hang-ups.
Just be yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s so true! Let these people in a little bit, show them who you are, and the family-like love we’re all supposed to feel for anyone who is remotely related to us, may flow more freely. Or it may not, but at least you can say you were kind, and that you tried.