I once had a stepmom say to me, “You know, every time I go to my stepson’s baseball game the biological mom makes it very obvious that she does not want me there, that she doesn’t think I belong there. She storms around the field, and it makes it very uncomfortable for my stepsons.”
I told her, “Don’t go to the games even if your husband wants you to.”
“But my husband really wants me there,” she explained.
I said, “You know what? You and he need to sit down and talk about this, because it’s causing tension for the children.”
This wasn’t to give the biological mother power over her or to run away at any hint of conflict. This was to set the children at ease, because it was very stressful for them.
Having a civil relationship with the biological mother may seem impossible. But, if possible as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18).
That may mean taking the higher road. That may mean overlooking some cruel or nasty comments sometimes. It doesn’t mean you allow the person to treat you like dirt. It doesn’t mean you’re supposed to just roll over, and play dead, but it may mean that for the sake of the children you do what is best for them, and brings the most peace into their life, just like the stepmother at the ball park.
Now, if the kids were older, like 15 or 16, I’d say the the dad and stepmom should sit down with the child and the stepmom should say, “You know, Josh, it appears that your mom is really uncomfortable when I’m at your baseball games. Would it be easier on you if I didn’t attend as your stepmother?”
While this may or may not help, as kids from a divorce often do not tell you how they really feel, there is one absolute rule: Never, ever, ever trash talk the biological mother. Always address the behavior, not the person. Trash talk will always end up hurting the stepmother.
A stepmom could say, “You know, Joshua, I’m really sorry that you’re having that kind of turmoil in your home. That must make it very confusing to be at your mom’s house, and experiencing one thing, and then when you come in this house you’re doing something completely different. Let’s talk about how that makes you feel.”
Don’t ever say, “Your mom’s a bad mother because she’s allowing you to watch R-rated movies and you’re only 12.”
Even if the children agree with their stepmom, even if they realize their mom is acting poorly or out of line, it only emboldens their loyalty. It is very hard for children to hear their parents being criticized, especially by a stepparent. So while they might agree with you, they will see that conversation as pitting one woman against the other, and they will choose their biological mother.
As a Christian, treat everyone—even the biological mother—with respect and love. It will make life easier for your husband and the children. Trash talking should have no place in your home.