"half" siblings and calling step dad by his first name? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 09:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Mamas:

Hopefully some of you have been in a similar situation and therefore have advice about how to address this situation.

Background: DS1 (age 10) and DS2 (age 7) are from my first marriage. I have been married to DH (father of DS3 - age 4 and DS4 - age 2) for five years. Custody/visitation situation is volatile and always has been. ExDH and I live in different states because of my DH's military service. I maintain primary custody, and ex has non-school visitation (spring, summer, winter breaks).

Situation: After visiting his dad for any extended period of time, DS1 begins referring to DH by his first name, and calling his two younger brothers his "half-brothers". Using DH's first name is not a problem per se; however, I do not want the younger boys taking on that habit. We had compromised on "S-Dad"; however, DS1 is now saying that he won't call DH anything but his first name. The bigger problem IMO is the "half-brother" issue. The younger boys adore their older brothers, and would be very hurt to be referred to as "half" anything (now that they are older and becoming more aware of familial relationships).

Questions:

1. How should I address this issue? I feel that DS1 is entitled to his feelings about being in a blended family; however, I do not feel it is OK for him to intentionally hurt his brothers' feelings with the "half" stuff.

2. Given that DS1 is a typical 10 yr old boy who doesn't like to talk about feelings - is this something I should ignore for the most part, or should I have a talk with him?

3. Is the step-dad/first name issue even worth mentioning? I don't want the other boys to get in the habit of calling DH by his first name, but don't think it's a huge deal for the most part. DH is pretty hurt by it because he loves and cares for the older boys very much, so I don't want to negate his feelings in all of this either.

TIA for your help!

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#2 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 09:35 PM
 
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3. Is the step-dad/first name issue even worth mentioning? I don't want the other boys to get in the habit of calling DH by his first name, but don't think it's a huge deal for the most part. DH is pretty hurt by it because he loves and cares for the older boys very much, so I don't want to negate his feelings in all of this either.

TIA for your help!
I have always called my step-parents by their first names. "Stepdad," to me, sounds really silly to call someone all the time, to be honest. You will need to tell the younger ones they can't call your husband by his first name; that's not something for which I think it's fair to hold the oldest child responsible.

I lived with my half-sister, not my half-brother. I've never referred to my sister as a "half" unless needed for clarification (mostly about last names as kids), but I've always said that in reference to my brother because I don't really know him well. The truth is, though, that your older boys & younger boys *are* half-brothers. What your son is saying is how he's processing the blended family. Again, I think your job is to teach all of your children that they all should love each other, respect each other, etc., whether they are full or half biological siblings. I would view it as an opportunity to talk about family ties unless you oldest is saying "half" as a way to be mean, which is doesn't sound like. I certainly would not be angry at him for using accurate terminology.

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#3 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 09:38 PM
 
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as someone who was forced to call my stepfather 'dad' i think you should leave it up to them. calling my stepfather dad made me very uncomfortble.

i would just exlain that half or not they are still siblings and to spare their feelings not to say that anymore
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#4 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 10:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have always called my step-parents by their first names. "Stepdad," to me, sounds really silly to call someone all the time, to be honest. You will need to tell the younger ones they can't call your husband by his first name; that's not something for which I think it's fair to hold the oldest child responsible.

I lived with my half-sister, not my half-brother. I've never referred to my sister as a "half" unless needed for clarification (mostly about last names as kids), but I've always said that in reference to my brother because I don't really know him well. The truth is, though, that your older boys & younger boys *are* half-brothers. What your son is saying is how he's processing the blended family. Again, I think your job is to teach all of your children that they all should love each other, respect each other, etc., whether they are full or half biological siblings. I would view it as an opportunity to talk about family ties unless you oldest is saying "half" as a way to be mean, which is doesn't sound like. I certainly would not be angry at him for using accurate terminology.
I appreciate your perspective as a person who grew up in a blended family. I never dealt with any of this in my family of origin, thus I don't have personal experience with how a child views this dynamic. DS1 sometimes uses "half" in a derogatory sense, but most of the time, I think he just doesn't consider his brothers' feelings. I think it will become more clear to him in time.

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#5 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 10:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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as someone who was forced to call my stepfather 'dad' i think you should leave it up to them. calling my stepfather dad made me very uncomfortble.

i would just exlain that half or not they are still siblings and to spare their feelings not to say that anymore
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Good to know about the "dad" issue. I don't want to make DS feel uncomfortable, and I want him to feel loved and accepted on his terms, not mine or DH's. Thanks for your reply.

Tabitha ~ devoted wife to my best friend Stephen ribbonyellow.gif and gentle Christian mom to six DSs: notes.gif E - 2/09/00REPlaySkateboard04HL.gifA - 3/05/03superhero.gifA- 6/05/06 guitar.gif H- 2/07/08 jog.gif J - 11/14/10 bouncy.gif T - 8/23/12 + stork-suprise.gif due 9/20/14!  brokenheart.gif DD Janae 10/19/09 angel2.gif
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#6 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 10:24 PM
 
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I always called my stepdad, Dad, so for me I never had an issue with it. I knew my biological father and referred to him as my father. I don't think kids should call any parental figure by their first name as the norm. Perhaps there is some other name you can come up with that denotes some form of respect but doesn't force your son to feel like he has to think of his stepdad as his dad. I technically have 2 half-sisters and 1 half-brother and 1 full brother, but I just tell people I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. By calling them half, your son is purposefully distancing himself from them.

I also wouldn't say it's 'typical' for 10 year old boys to withhold expression of emotion. I would not recommend ignoring this. It sounds to me like he has unresolved emotions that he needs to work out regarding the blended family situation and it would be healthiest for him and the rest of the family if your son was given the opportunity to express, and have validated, his emotions regarding the matter.

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#7 of 19 Old 08-28-2010, 10:27 PM
 
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My X tried to pull the half brother thing. Luckliy my boys were like... Dad.. he looks like a WHOLE baby to me. 1/2 would mean the other 1/2 of him is someplace else.

My boys have never refered to their brothers as half. They have a super relationship with my DH but have never called him Dad. My younger 2 have never used DH's first name. They refer to L & C's dad as Tim.

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#8 of 19 Old 08-29-2010, 12:24 AM
 
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I think there is something in process - how kids "process" the blended family. When my first "half" brother was born, I was 10. I was not happy about the situation, and really professed him as "half". By the time my second brother was born, when I was 12, I'd changed my tune and they became "brothers" and have been ever since.
It's an age thing, and it's also about determining your place in the family. I would talk to your son about it - see if he has any animosity, any issue that he feels constitutes the "half". Because those should be worked out. If he just doesn't understand the importance of siblings and how cool it is to have them (half or not), he will with time :-)

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#9 of 19 Old 08-29-2010, 12:23 PM
 
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On the first name issue:

Dsd calls me by my first name most of the time, by my mom-like nickname some of the time.

Dd calls me "Mom" most of the time, by the nickname some of the time, and very occassionally by my first name to be funny (she laughs hysterically when she does it). She will alo call dp (her dad) sweetheart because she hears me saying it, lol.

Dsd never calls me mom, but does refer to me mostly as mom when talking to dd (i.e. go ask your mom) but sometimes even then uses my first name. Dd figured it out just fine. I was really worried about this issue too when she was first born, but it has truly never been an issue. I wouldn't insist that your ds call your dh "Dad" unless that is what he wants. The little ones will figure it out.

We were lucky that everybody involved (dsd's mom etc.) always referred to siblings as brothers and sisters, so we never had to deal with that. Dsd knows that they are "half" siblings because they have a different mom, but we don't call them that. Not sure how I would deal with it beyond clarifying what that means to all the kids so that maybe there wouldn't be so much emotional baggage associated with the term?

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#10 of 19 Old 08-29-2010, 12:56 PM
 
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1. How should I address this issue? I feel that DS1 is entitled to his feelings about being in a blended family; however, I do not feel it is OK for him to intentionally hurt his brothers' feelings with the "half" stuff.
I grew up with a younger sister and two younger brothers. We were told that we don't use the term "half" sibling in our house unless you absolutely need to clarify to somebody why that sibling has a different Father. We were told that to term it "half" makes it seem like it's not important, when there really is no difference besides biological- either you're siblings or not.

When I had a stepdaughter, my exHusband and I went by similar ways of thinking when it came to my stepdaughter and my son. Children are smart- they understand.

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#11 of 19 Old 08-29-2010, 02:01 PM
 
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I was also forced to call my little brother's mother "mom". My father had primary custody of me. I really didn't like it.

My little brother, I interchangibly called him both brother and half-brother. I think it is just part of understanding a complex family. I remember having a hard time distinguishing between "step" and "half" siblings for a long time. My brother also called me sister or half-sister when speaking of me to others. I didn't care, but then again, it was never said in a mean fashion. I can ask him if it bothered him.

I'm not sure how I would address it. It's not a derogatory word in and of itself, and you don't want it turned into one. When he is using it to be mean, maybe try to replace with another word for now, that siblings tend to use when ribbing or trying to get the other riled. Yes, I know that is not solving the problem of being derogatory or rude, but maybe you can work on that part later? I guess it would help to know the context of how it's being used in a derogatory manner. Like, maybe if they are saying "leave me alone, I don't like you, you're just my half-brother" maybe you can try to replace "my half-brother" with "a baby" if he must get out his irritation/anger verbally. I don't know, maybe that's a bad idea? I guess I'm not a lot of help.

I wouldn't address the "dad" vs. first name one. Maybe he'll end up calling him dad again, maybe not. The woman my dad is now married to, I generally tell other people she is my mom when introducing her, though I call her by her first name. I don't love her any less just because I don't call her "mom."

I will share that the same thing happened to her. My brother started to call her "mom" - of his own volition - and his mother was livid when she found out and told him to stop calling her that. So he did, and then called her by her first name. She was sad about it for awhile, it stung a bit, but she also felt it was minor in the grand scheme of things - again, it did not change the love he felt for her.


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#12 of 19 Old 08-29-2010, 02:21 PM
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I called my stepdad "Dad,"....but it's because he was my dad, and my biological father was not involved in my life. My stepdad and my mother got together before I was even a year old, and he's all I knew. He raised me; my father didn't.

My boys do not call their stepdad "Dad." They call him by his name. They were 10yo and 13yo when DH and I met, and they have a relationship with their own dad. I would never force them to call DH by any parental type name. I would find it disrespectful of my kids' feelings and disrespectful of their dad's feelings.

I don't see any reason to use the words "half-brother" or "half-sister" unless you're trying to clarify the blood relationship for someone. The way your DS is using it (and especially since he only does it after returning from his father's home), it sounds like a put-down. I have half-siblings on my bio-father's side that I don't even really know, so I do refer to them as half-siblings. Most of the time I just say I'm an only child.
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#13 of 19 Old 08-29-2010, 02:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply with your thoughts, personal experiences, etc. I think the naming issues stem from the emotional tug-of-war that has been going on for DS1 for several years. He loves his brothers and his step-dad, yet feels a loyalty to his father and doesn't want to disrespect him. It doesn't help that exDH has a very difficult time with the way that our lives have changed since the divorce (i.e. I moved on and remarried fairly quickly - he has barely dated to my knowledge) and thus doesn't react well to my DH and younger DSs. DS2 (his bio brother from the same father) doesn't seem to have the same reactions to blended family issues; however, he was so young when I separated from his father that he has no memory of us living all together as a family. To DS2, it was me as a single parent, then step dad living with us.

Anyhow, I appreciate the input and suggestions. Thanks again!

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#14 of 19 Old 09-18-2010, 07:01 PM
 
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My girls from my previous marriage, call my DH by his first name. We've been together since the girls were 1 and 3. Their father is in their life and he is their "dad". DH and I have a son together and he's never called DH by his first name even with the girls calling him by it. He understands that the girls have a different dad though. He's 4.
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#15 of 19 Old 09-18-2010, 07:16 PM
 
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My bio sister and I never called our stepdad "dad", but always called him by his first name... as in "this is my mother and Josh" I'm happy that no one suggested or forced us to call him "dad".

My stepsisters and stepbrother are just "sisters and brother". Some are not related to me through marriage any longer (our parents divorced again, and my mother is married again, so I have even more stepsiblings) - but we were/are still always all just "sisters and brother", never "this is my sister and these are my stepsiblings" type of wording.

Calling a stepparent "mom" or "dad" was/is really uncomfortable for a lot of my friends (as kids) whose parents had them do that as kids, so they say, and it would have been uncomfortable for me too... if its the kids' choice, that's a different story.

(my two cents for ya!)

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#16 of 19 Old 09-18-2010, 07:42 PM
 
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How about calling him something like "papa Tom" or "Daddy Todd"
My kids call my step dad Grandpa Jim.
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#17 of 19 Old 09-19-2010, 11:12 AM
 
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Your situation sounds a LOT like how my life was as a child. My mom married my stepdad when I was 7. he was military. She had 2 more kids with him. so it was me and my brother who shared a dad and the two younger ones shared a dad... the only difference I see is that I also have an older brother, whose father died when he was just a few months old (my mother was widowed at 19)

We always called our stepdad by his first name. To me this is not disrespectful at all but more respectful (to us and to him) than forcing us to call him something we were not okay with. For what its worth... I love my stepdad dearly, he has been a part of my life for 21 years and has made no effort at hiding how much he loves my kids as if they were biological grandchildren... or at how proud he is of me for marrying DH (who is also military) and my full-brother (who joined the military as well)

This never became a problem with my baby brother or sister calling him by his first name. They call him dad/daddy but have always known that the three older kids are only their half-siblings and we have different dads than theirs.

I call them my brother and sister unless I feel it necessary to make the clarification (for example when explaining that I have 23 siblings, but thats only if you include half and step, If you only include half, i have 18 and if you only include fullblooded I have 1... for the record only 5 were from my mom... its a bit easier for men to have that many kids)

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#18 of 19 Old 09-22-2010, 11:32 PM
 
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Your son needs to decide for himself what he calls your husband. So long as it is polite. I think it is fine that he calls him by his first name. My mom always wanted me to call her husband dad and I HATED it and it cause me to have not so fond feelings of her and him. She also wanted me to refer to my step sisters as my sisters. Also was not going to happen. I wanted to put as much distance between me and them as possible. I don't think "stepdad" really works as a term of endearment. Its awkward and fumbly and no one says that. I say just let him call him by his first name. Let them be friends and build a real relationship.

I do not think you have to worry about the little ones picking up the habit of calling your husband by his first name. If they do tell them no.

As for the half thing I would not worry about the word. It is true. but if it is being said in a derogatory tone I would most certainly address that. Attitude is everything.

i would also approach your ex in peace and ask if your son said anything or something happened. If he is having a hard time you want to know about it. If your his dad is encouraging this behavior you should know about it. Any information you get will help you help your son find a place in the family he is comfortable with.

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#19 of 19 Old 09-24-2010, 12:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Mamas:

Quick update..

The older boys returned from their father's home full of love and affection for the younger boys. There has been no talk of half-brothers. DH redeployed from Iraq almost two weeks ago. My oldest DS was initially pretty chilly with him, but DH was patient and loving in return. Both older boys are calling DH "S-Dad", "Dad" or "Stephen" interchangeably, which is fine with us. We have pretty much settled back into our family routine, and the older two seem to welcome DH's care and attention, especially because I'm 32 weeks pregnant and thus not able to do a lot of the physical activities they enjoy. In short, so far so good!

Thanks again for your insight and input.

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