The Family Project: Mother’s son is a parent by another name
Q. My son is married to a lovely woman who has two children ages 10 and 8. He has taken on a parenting role with them since their father is completely out of the picture. The children seem to like my son and respect him, but he refers to them as “my wife’s kids.” This bothers me because it seems that he doesn’t see the children as belonging to him or being part of a family together. How can I bring this up to him?
The first question that was raised came from panelist Mike Daniels, who asked if the son referred to “my wife’s kids” in front of the children.
“It may not be an issue for the children, but it is for his mother. She may have some concerns about her son taking on a family,” Daniels said, adding, “My sense is this is about her dealing with the changes in her son’s life.”
Panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo had a different take on the situation. “Maybe what the grandmother wants is to be able to call the youngsters her grandchildren,” she said.
Following up on that comment, panelist Chad Stefanyak said it was a fair concern on the part of the mother if she was looking for clarification of her own role with the children. He suggested that she could use that concern in talking to her son,” said Stefanyak.
“She could begin by telling her son that she was asked about the children and that she wasn’t sure how to refer to them, as her grandchildren or his wife’s children. She could then ask him what he is comfortable with her saying,” Stefanyak said.
Focusing on the grandmother’s role, rather than the son’s actions, panelist Bahar Mallah said it would help to approach the subject in a much more positive way.
“What we may not know,” Daniels said, “is that the son and his wife probably have already had a conversation about parenting. With a new person in the children’s lives, the wife may feel she needs to maintain her role, and the use of the words ‘my wife’s kids’ may clarify it for everyone.”
Suggesting that the wife may have asked him to refer to the children as hers, panelist Mike Ramsey said there could be any number of reasons why the son refers to them the way he does. “It doesn’t have to mean anything,” Ramsey said.
This week’s panel is: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator, and Bahar Mallah, family practice therapist.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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