In an ideal world, if a child has more than two parents then they would receive double the love and support. Imagine that child has supportive parents and stepparents, and everyone gets along and respects one another. In this ideal world, all adults involved would be part of that child’s life full time.
Sounds pretty great right?
In my experience, most of these situations are far less than ideal. Blending families can get messy, emotions may run high, and feelings could get hurt. Social Stepmom is here to help makes things a little bit easier by discussing s necessary evil: your stepkid's school events.
As a stepkid myself, I have been through it all with my parents and stepparents and have some thoughts about attending your stepkid's school events.
From the Kid’s Perspective
Most kids at school just want to fit in with their friends and be "normal". Obviously, they don't want to feel labeled or isolated-- which I found to be a fear of mine as a stepkid.
In the digital age we live in right now, it feels as though being from a blended family might be more common. This might not be true however with social media and the internet being so prevalent, you're able to see a much more connected and open online community. Family secrets aren't necessarily kept hidden away 'behind closed doors'.
When I was growing up, most kids had a mommy and a daddy. I did not know how to tell the other kids, let alone my teachers, about my family life. As a stepmom, when you first enter a family your stepchild may not feel comfortable introducing you. Think about the perspective at your stepkid's school events for them-- now they have to introduce two sets of parents.
Our advice, take baby steps. Don’t jump into attending your stepkid's school events all at once, and definitely don’t show up to your stepkid's school events without discussing it with them beforehand.
Communication is Always Key
In any aspect of life, especially in blended families, communication is key. When it comes to your stepkid's school events such as parent-teacher interviews, school plays, sports games, ect., not only do you need to communicate with your stepkid but you also need to communicate with the other parents involved.
If the biological mother is very hands-on in your stepkid's school events, you must be respectful of that. If their mother has attended your stepkid's school events then it is likely best to leave that to her.
Start small, build your relationship with your stepkid, and in attending your stepkid's school events will become possible over time. Be sure to communicate your support for their mother and show respect to her as well.
Parent Teacher Interviews
Parent-teacher interviews should stay consistent with what your stepkid's family has done in the past. If the bio mother has not been involved in the school meetings in the past then you can discuss with your partner whether including you would be appropriate. From my perspective as a stepkid, we really crave consistency. If our moms have come to these events in the past, we don’t want to explain to our teacher that there will be a second mother going.
Attending your stepkid's school events will also depend on where your child stays most of the time. If they are mostly with their bio mom during the week then they will do the majority of their homework with her. As a stepkid, we want to feel supported and need our parents to know what is going on in our schoolwork to support us in that way.
Build up your relationship to be able to attend your stepkid's school events if they live with you. In time, there should be no reason you would not attend parent-teacher meetings with your partner.
You stepkid's school events that are after school activities can be a great way to begin attending more of your stepkid's school events. Events such as school plays, sports games, recitals, are all public events and can ease the pressure of inviting a stepparent for your stepkid.
In my own personal experience, my divorced parents would plan to attend my dance recitals on different nights. Typically my dance recitals would be a three-day weekend event and I would invite my mom to one day and my dad to the other. I knew that they did not want to be in the same room together (and trust me your kids know that about you too) so I made it easier on them which would then make it easier on me.
Your stepkid's school events such as sports games are a great opportunity to have both sets of parents there. Typically there should be enough space at the event for the two sets of parents to sit on opposite ends of the field!
The biggest stipulation I NEED to stress is that as a stepparent (or even a parent), if you say you will attend your stepkid's school event you must follow through. There is no worse feeling for a stepkid who is trying their best to create a relationship with a stepparent than to have them not follow through on a promise.
As always, make sure you ask your stepchild if they want you at the event. Assuming they want you there and showing up if they don't will create tension between the two which we can avoid completely.
Think Outside The Box
We all know that there is no cookie cutter family and there is no set way to do things. Given today’s culture of openness and awareness, there are many ways to adjust and adapt to new situations. You will never know what the options are until you ask. For instance, teachers now sometimes hold two separate parent-teacher interviews for certain families. It is worth asking the teacher to see if they can accommodate you in this way if you need it.
Get creative! Some schools only allow two tickets for each child to certain events like plays or dance recitals. If that is the case for your stepchild's school events then the tickets should go to their biological parents. However, if you want to still show your stepchild support then you can ask them to do an at-home performance! Why not ask your stepchild to show you their dance or singing performance in your living room. It can be a fun way to show support and love for your stepchild. I used to film my singing performances and then when I was able to go to my dad's house I would show him. In doing this, I was able to feel excited and proud that my dad was still able to see what I was doing even if he could not see it live.
The main takeaway here should be that your stepchild does not want to disrupt the status quo. They don't want any added attention drawn to them by having multiple parents arrive to different events. So as always talk to your stepchild and be open and honest about which school events mean the most to you!
XO, Social Stepmom