Our relationship with our own kids feels important. This remains so even in situations where a parent may not be heavily involved with their child. We almost all want to be known as the parent, by the title “mom” or “dad.”
From a biological perspective, this is important.”I not only need to feel important in my child’s life, but I am biologically driven to feel so.” That feeling of connection typically drives the parent towards the care and nurturing of the child, necessary for the child’s survival.
Introducing a new person as mom or dad can threaten that feeling and biological imperative. Hence, seeking to install a new parent with a parenting title can and often carries much meaning for the natural parent.
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On the other side, and depending on the age of the child, calling another adult by a parental title can create feelings of loyalty binds, as well as confusion for the child. This is particularly so to the degree to which the natural parent takes issues with this situation, and the child is exposed to that parent’s feelings.
However, and also from the child’s perspective and age, some kids feel awkward about referring to their parent’s partner by first name in public and feel more at ease using a parenting title so they do not have to explain the nature of the relationship as stepparent.
Whether or not a child calls a parent mom or dad then depends on the feelings of the other parent as well as those of the child and the age of the child.
The best way to determine an answer to the question is by dialogue with the parents first. When parents can come to an agreement on what the child calls the new partner, everyone can transition easier.
To avoid confusion with a parent and stepparent using the same name, similar but different names can be used, such as mom/mommy, dad/daddy. Another strategy used by many parents is to have a pet name for the new partner that can mimic a parental name, or at least can be special to those persons in their relationship. At times, if folks are of different cultures, the parenting name from that culture or language may be used.
The bottom line is that the parents’ wishes, and the child’s needs should be respected as much as possible. Avoid loyalty binds for the child and provide a name that doesn’t leave the child feeling a need for explanation to others as best as possible.