32 answers

What to Call Dad/Stepdad

My husband and I would like to find something that all the kids can call him. We have two kids from my previous marriage (that we share 50:50 custody with my ex-husband and his wife) and one (5 months old) that is "ours". Right now the older 2 call my husband by his first name, but we'd like to find something that, once the little one starts to talk, all 3 could call him. There are a couple of reasons for this-- 1) we want to minimize the "familial differences" between the older 2 and the youngest and 2) we don't want to confuse the little one with him trying to call his dad by his first name. We, of course, would talk to the older kids and see if they were ok with calling him by something other than his first name, but we don't have any ideas even as to what to suggest. We were thinking that maybe "dad" in another language might work. Any suggestions? Anything that has worked for the other blended families out there?
Thanks in advance!

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I have a 15 year old stepdaughter and two younger daughters with my husband (3 and 11 mos) My stepdaughter has always called me by my first name, and I think it would be very strange to have asked her to call me something else. My 3 year old does not seem confused when her older sister calls me by my name (although yes, I did worry about it when she was a baby). Now it;s not a problem, but I did ask my stepdaughter to please refer to me as "mommy" when she's talking to my daughter (for example saying "go ask Mommy" instead of "go ask A.") She had no problem doing this and completely understood my feelings. However, I think it would have been a little much to ask her to start calling me something else entirely.

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My adopted daughter came to live with me when she was 7. She called me Mom M. and her birth mother Mom Michelle.

Now she has children with 4 grandmothers because of 2 different father's. They've attached their name to Grandma. they used two of the grandmothers' last names. The other two have first names. The kids themselves chose to do that. I was hoping that we would have different Grandma designations such as Nana, Grammy or some other loving nick name. Now I'm used to being Grandma M.. If I'm the only grandma there they drop my name from Grandma.

I'm now mostly just Mom to my daughter. I like that.

Addition: My daughter has remarried and her kids call the step-father Papa and their birth fathers Daddy. My granddaughter calls her brother's father Daddy Scott. Her birth father lives in a different state. Her brother doesn't know him.

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I was much younger when my step dad came into my life and my mom had 100% custody of me so it's a different situation. But, I always called him dad when in that family and referred to my biological dad as "Daddy Doug". Then when I was with my biological dad and step-mom, I called them Dad and Jean and referred to my step-dad as "Daddy Bill". It just depended on who I was talking too. To me now, they are both my dads, just different kinds - one who raised me and one who is my biological dad. I have a friend whose 12=year-old calls his step-dad "Daddy-o" Kind of silly but it works for them. Good luck!

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Great question, Emily- and I'm 64 and still hope to grow up and become something even better '''when I --- ''' - like that.

I've had several friends caught in this dilemna - and the toughest part is --how does your older children's Dad feel about it?"'' -- -the KIDS might be fine with calling him 'Pops' - or 'Poppy'' ( Hispanic children seem to call their Dad''' Poppy''' which I think is nice )- however - I had a dear friend ( now graduated to a higher plane ) who was appalled and very upset when her ex-husband encouraged her sons to call his fiance '''Mom''' - it hurt her terribly- really was so painful--- so - first step-- is find out where their Dad stands. Second--- I have seen MANY ''his, mine, and ours'' families both in my own extended family--- my church family- and the 100s of families I worked with over 40 years of doing special ed, preschool work--- the children hearing their older sibs call Daddy ''' Scott''' do fine--- in THEIR eyes it's just

"""""I call Daddy--- Daddy- and big sister Isobel calls him Scott--- why is that odd??'''---- NOTHING is odd to babies and little children until we teach them that it is--- and believe it or not-- your baby will extend some kind of kinship to her older sib's Dad --- My own youngest asked me of her older sibs' father ( who was not hers --- ) '''' who is Ben to me?''' I replied --- '''he's a connection''' That was fine with her ( she was 4 at the time) ---

Blessings, dear heart- you'll work it out fine-

Good luck on ''when you grow up'' - trust me, there's no rush

:-)
J.
aka- Old Mom

5 moms found this helpful

I have a 15 year old stepdaughter and two younger daughters with my husband (3 and 11 mos) My stepdaughter has always called me by my first name, and I think it would be very strange to have asked her to call me something else. My 3 year old does not seem confused when her older sister calls me by my name (although yes, I did worry about it when she was a baby). Now it;s not a problem, but I did ask my stepdaughter to please refer to me as "mommy" when she's talking to my daughter (for example saying "go ask Mommy" instead of "go ask A.") She had no problem doing this and completely understood my feelings. However, I think it would have been a little much to ask her to start calling me something else entirely.

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Well, I have a "half" sister (my only sibling, so I don't really think of her as half. We share the same dad. Anyway, she is older than me and called my mom by her first name until I was about 5 or so and she was 8. When she felt comfortable, my sister just switched. Maybe it was because I always called her mom. I don't know, I should ask her.
I don't think it is a good idea to force the label thing on your older kids. I never called my mom by her first name or was confused.
My daughter has tried out the calling both her dad and I by our first names, just because she hears other people using them. I think that is normal. We just correct her.
My sister still calls my mom mom and her kids call her grandma, because she is. She has earned that after many, many years. There will always be differences. My sister has a mother that is her own. She also has a special relationship with her step-mother. That relationship is totally different from my relationship with my mother. Some of that is due to the natural born and step thing. Some of it is just due to personality differnces like it would be with any set of siblings.
This is a hard stuation. You should talk to the older kids. Maybe they would like to be part of deciding what they call him. They may want to comtinue to call him by his first name and you should respect that. However, maybe it has been long enough that they would like to switch, but don't know how to do it either.

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it really needs to be up to the kids what they call their stepfather, because it depends on their level of comfort. if they're fine with calling him by his first name, then don't push the issue. if you push the issue you run the risk of making them feel like they're replacing their father, or making them love their stepfather more than they're ready to. it can also cause a lot of resentment, especially since their father is still in the picture, and make them feel like they aren't allowed to love their father anymore, because you're taking a title from their father and giving it to another man.
http://www.successfulstepfamilies.com/view/73 is an interesting link.
i would sit them down and talk to your kids and see how they feel. you mention that you're newly married, so you might want to shelve this idea for a while.
blending families is tricky, and how the parents handle it makes all the difference. my mother tried to make me call my stepfather "dad", and i cannot express to you how angry it made me. again, see how your kids feel and base it off of what they say.
that said, my daughter opted a year ago to call my SO "daddy". this was only after she slipped up and, instead of calling him by name called him "daddy", then corrected herself. we sat her down and told her after this happened on a daily basis that if she wanted to call him daddy that was fine, if she wanted to call him by his name that was fine too. this was all well and good, until a few months ago when my ex's parent's found out she refers to my SO as "daddy" (while still calling her bio father "daddy"...that's never changed) and now they spend their time with her telling her that my SO isn't her "real" father and he doesn't matter and she doesn't have to love him, etc. oddly enough, my ex is totally okay with her calling my SO "daddy" and totally supportive of my SO's relationship with our daughter.
as for your "combined" son, if you and your husband refer to him as "daddy" when speaking to him, there won't be any problem. eventually all children learn their parent's first name and most go through a (brief) stage where they call their parents by name. but hearing other kids call your husband by his first name, or uncle so-and-so, or mr. suchisthat isn't going to make the baby refer to his father by name. just keep calling your husband daddy when you're talking to your baby and it'll all work out.

2 moms found this helpful

I think you need to have a talk with your ex-husband. His title, his name, "Dad, Daddy" is one he shouldn't have to share with your husband. What do your kids call their step-mom? Probably her first name. There is nothing wrong with your kids calling their step-dad by his first name and your baby calling him Daddy/Dad. Divorce is hard enough, and it's almost like an alienation of love/respect to ask them to call their step-dad "Dad". I've seen my brother's kids struggle with this issue as their Mom passed away when then were 11 and 6,(they are 14 and 10 now) and he has a significant other now who wants the kids to call her Mom (she has a 21 yr old son). The 14 yr old tells her that she's not his Mom, his Mom is in heaven. This is a title, a name of the woman who is Mom. If anything, let your kids decide what to call their step-father.

2 moms found this helpful

My adopted daughter came to live with me when she was 7. She called me Mom M. and her birth mother Mom Michelle.

Now she has children with 4 grandmothers because of 2 different father's. They've attached their name to Grandma. they used two of the grandmothers' last names. The other two have first names. The kids themselves chose to do that. I was hoping that we would have different Grandma designations such as Nana, Grammy or some other loving nick name. Now I'm used to being Grandma M.. If I'm the only grandma there they drop my name from Grandma.

I'm now mostly just Mom to my daughter. I like that.

Addition: My daughter has remarried and her kids call the step-father Papa and their birth fathers Daddy. My granddaughter calls her brother's father Daddy Scott. Her birth father lives in a different state. Her brother doesn't know him.

2 moms found this helpful

Good for you for wanting to find ways to blend the families! As I am sure you are aware, this is not always an easy task. I'm glad you want to include your older children, because they're feelings and opinions are valid and important in this process.

Since you are already planning on talking to your older children, you might ask them what they think. Sometimes kids have wonderful ideas of their own in situations like this, especially if they have friends from other cultures and have been exposed to other words for mom and dad. They may have heard something in school that they really like and may want to use.

Another thought...have your kids done any research or are they aware of the cultural heritage of your family? Maybe you could look into the country of origin of some of your ancestors or your husbands family and then look up the name for dad in the language of your or his ancestors and use that. That way your kids might find some connection that way. (I hope that makes sense!)

The more you involve your kids in the process, the better and more connected they will feel to you and their step dad. Be prepared, though, for the transition to a new name to take awhile. Changes like this can be a challenging for kids, but I'm sure you won't pressure them into making a change they aren't ready for.

Good for you for being supportive, it sounds like they have a great mom! :)

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I always called my biological father 'father', and my step-dad, 'dad'. As an adult, i call my step-dad 'dad', and my father by his first name. This, i think, largely reflects how comfortable i feel with my dad, and how absent my father was.... He is my friend, but didn't play much of a parental role.

Anyway, my point is, these names and habits evolved naturally. It is what we normally felt comfortable with. I think you may have better luck with something sticking if you ask your two older kids for suggestions. I love your idea for using the title from another language - maybe your kids would get into looking them up and choosing one that fits for them.

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Have you talked to the kids about your concern? Any discussion, decision should include them because it concerns them. You have done such a good job so far.

A couple of ideas.

What is your ethnic heritage? Find the word for father in your ethnic heritage and use that.

Another idea is to have your older kids brainstorm the idea with you--that would give them real "possession" of the name. Have them look up a variety of names for father and bring them to the "table" and discuss them with you.

Good luck. Think of this as fun and an adventure.
Congratulations to your entire family on the baby.

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Perhaps you can just have the children refer to your new husband as his name but also leave it known that the door is open for whatever they would like to call him. When I was 5 I actually asked my step-dad if I could call him daddy all on my own. To this day I am closer to my "step family" over my bio family. It is wonderful that you are trying to raise your children as one unit.

1 mom found this helpful

Definitely ask the older kids what they're inclinations are. They might take it the wrong way to have to change that they call their step dad just because a new baby is coming. You might inadvertently be sending a message that the family now revolves around this new baby.

There is no way to avoid the fact that yours is a blended family. It seems to me the names at present and having your baby call him dad would appropriately reflect reality. Just be matter of fact about it.

1 mom found this helpful

Maybe papa? That's what I've long called my dad. Well, I guess most of the time it's "papabear"! :) Could they just call him dad? Would it be okay with you if they called their stepmom "mom"?

The older two kids are old enough to ask them their opinion and thoughts about it. Check with them and explain that you want to find something that works for everyone. They might have an idea of their own that is just the solution!

1 mom found this helpful

I was much younger when my step dad came into my life and my mom had 100% custody of me so it's a different situation. But, I always called him dad when in that family and referred to my biological dad as "Daddy Doug". Then when I was with my biological dad and step-mom, I called them Dad and Jean and referred to my step-dad as "Daddy Bill". It just depended on who I was talking too. To me now, they are both my dads, just different kinds - one who raised me and one who is my biological dad. I have a friend whose 12=year-old calls his step-dad "Daddy-o" Kind of silly but it works for them. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Emily,
I think you are on to something with "dad" in another language! What is your husbands (or your)heritage? Could you draw a name from there?
Good Luck,
Vicki

1 mom found this helpful

My "dad" is my step-father. My mom got remarried when I was 2 1/2ish. They had my sister when I was about 7ish or so - anyway - I think that I was calling him by his first name for a long time and then I started calling him dad about the time she started talking...because I wanted to. I never saw my bio-father - never really started to get to know him until after I turned 18 or so. So, I would give your children the option to either continue with the first name or calling him their dad. I think it depends on how they percieve him as a father figure or not. If they see him as my mom's husband - then....dad is probably not a great option. It just depends on their relationship with him. Since your children still see their bio-father and still have a relationship with him. It might back-fire a bit too. I don't know your husband by all means, but how would feel about your kiddos are calling another man their dad. Good luck...sorry if I wasn't much help.

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How about 'Pop' or 'Poppa'? And yes, I think 'dad' in another language is a good idea, too. Especially a language from you or your husband's heritage.
Personally, I don't care for children caliing adults by just their first names...I like Mr. So and So or Mrs. Whatever or Aunt Whozit... Whenever I volunteered at my childrens' schools, I always wrote Mrs. Mylastname on my nametags and expected the children to address as such.
Good luck and I'm sure you'll find something that works~you might even talk to your ex-husband...you may also want a term for your children to address their step-mom. Afterall,she and your husband are more than just a Jim or a Sandy to the children...they also parent them.
Keep us posted as I'm sure there are other families in that situation.
~Mary~

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What about father in Hebrew "Aba" is how it is pronounced (I'm not sure how to make my computer type in Hebrew). It is easy for the new baby to say and it sounds nothing like father or dad in English.

1 mom found this helpful

my unlce raised his grandaughter and she always called him Pap. kinda old fashioned, but was cute. it's possible that your baby will 'give' him a name (besides "dada")- some version of his name or dad that everyone could use.

i think some of the posts below make a good point, the older kids probably have an opinion and need to be comfortable with what they call him- and changing may be hard for them at this age.
if you havent ever discussed it with them, it would be good to sit down and talk about it- ask what they want to call him and let them think it thru. everyone could make suggestions.
if they have an ongoing and healthy relationship with their bio father, he may be the only "Dad" for them. Sometimes tho, a kid's perspective is totally different than the adults in the situation and they may be perfectly happy to have two "Dads". Regardless of what everyone calls each other, it sounds like you are already trying to do the most important thing, making sure everyone is part of "your" family.

i found this online-
"I love you, Dad":

Ik hou van je, Vader (Dutch)
Je t'aime, Papa (French)
Ich liebe dich, Vater (German)
Szeretlek, Apa (Hungarian)
Ti ami, Padre (Italian)
Kocham ciebie Tata (Polish)
Eu te amo Pai (Portugese)
Te amo Papá (Spanish)
Nakupenda Baba (Swahili)
Jag älskar dig Pappa (Swedish)

1 mom found this helpful

The family that I nanny for is a blended family as well. They have a little girl together (2 1/2) and the mother has two older children (9 and 13). The 9 and 13 year olds call their step-dad by his first name and their step-mom (both parents are remarried) by her first name. The little girl is not confused at all and has always known that "Bob" is the older two kids dad and her daddy is her dad.
Ask your kids how they feel and what they would want to call their step-dad. I know that I would HATE IT if my children called another woman "mom". I am there mom.
I don't see anything wrong with first names, your youngest will not be confused.
L.

1 mom found this helpful

what fo they call stepmom? you could also ask for their opinions.
Good Luck
Paula

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Emily,

I have a half-sister that had a really hard time with feeling like she belonged anywhere once I came along. Blended families were not as common then so my Mom did the best she could (weren't any real resources to go to for advice). But in hindsight, it has really affected my sister as an older child and now adult. The good part is that your kids have each other, so no matter what happens (despite good intentions, emotions and insecurities always muck up the picture) there is a sibling that is 100% theirs. But this is what my sister said:

"I think having a shared title for “Dad” is a really good thing. And YES…it would have made a difference. And while I LOVE the idea of another language, it shouldn’t be another language for “Dad” because, they are saying the exact word they are trying to get around. But, if the older kids don’t mind it so much, then I say go for it. The baby should be able to call its father, daddy, just like you are trying to respect the older kids right (plus, why take that pleasure away from your husband). However, if the older kids are feeling uncomfortable with the “Dad” other language thing, then I would suggest a nickname…it should be something for the older kids to call him, which makes them feel special because “they” have something to call him that only the family might understand…it should be something the baby can call him if he wants to, but they should not take away “Dad” from the baby when he/she is old enough to understand what's going on. The baby would just call it both names when it's older. This is an identity thing and when kids are in grade school…it’s all about having a “Dad” and “Mom” and if he/she is calling “Dad” something other than that, it could cause turmoil later in life, which the parents probably wouldn’t know about nor really understand.

So…after all of that (I was thinking as I was writing), I would suggest the nickname. Something special for the older kids, something the baby can use until he/she can understand the difference and something that makes “Dad” and “Mom” comfortable. Just don’t take the title “Dad” away from the baby…

Idea for nickname: Have each child list words that best describe their Step-Dad and then cross reference the words and then look those words up in another language. For example: Some friends of mine call each other “Shots” which is totally misspelled. But, it means “sweetheart” and for them…that is special."

And on a side note. My sister called my father by his name but I never got confused as to what I was supposed to call him. He was my Dad. But in reading the above note from you and then from my sister, it seems that your request is so the baby doesn't get confused and it really seems like it should be to honor the relationship he has with the older kids. Your baby is a sponge. It won't get confused. And by the way, I have a three year old and we have just taught our daughter our names (I work in events and have had to ask one too many lost kids what their parents name was only to have them say, "mom". - I can't ask for Mom to come to the show office and I hate announcing that there is a lost child - you never know what freak is listening). Anyway, my point is - every once in a while, she'll try and use our first name to be funny - we simply tell her that she calls us Mom and Dad and other people call us by our name. She get's it.

Anyway, hope this helps. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Emily,

I have a good friend who was in your situation with a new husband, an ex, and young kids. She had 1 child from the previous relationship. What they did was call the stepdad...Dad/Daddy---and first name (e.g., Daddy-Steve). And the biological dad was just Dad or Daddy. When the child became older he chose to call each Dad and no one argued since it was his choice. Sometimes in conversation he will clarify which Dad by using the first name, but that is all now...everyone is happy and adjusted.

Great question. It shows that you all want the families to work and stay on the same page.

GREAT JOB, MOM!!

God Bless,
T.

1 mom found this helpful

How about Papa?? My 4 year old has been calling my husband (his father) Papa instead of Dad or Daddy. We love it. Began as a baby. We hope it continues, although he has at times referred to him as Dad, mainly because other people call him that when talking to my son. And none of the Grandpa's go by "Papa" so it works for us! We will be teaching our 4 month old son that "Papa" is what his dad is called too. Good luck... I think Dad in another language is very special too!

1 mom found this helpful

I would talk to your kids and explain to them why this is important. Then ask them for ideas on what is comfortable for them. They may suprise you.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi,

My name is S., I am 62 years old and I have 5 children, 20 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. I live in Auburn, WA. I am raising my 3-year-old great granddaughter.

When my husband and I had a son together I would always refer to husband as Papa when talking to the baby. I found myself using the same term when talking to my husband. “Hi Papa Love, what do you want for supper?” My older children from a previous marriage had been calling my husband by his first name but when taking to their baby brother they would refer to Papa. Within a few weeks my wonderful husband was Papa to all of us.

Today, more than 30 years later, the kids, grandchildren, and great grandchildren still call him Papa. And so do I.

Sincerely,
S. Storms

1 mom found this helpful

I would leave it up to your children what they want to call your husband. My mother remarried when I was 12. There were 3 children (ages 16,12,8) before my mother had my youngest sibling.

We called him by his first name, and my youngest brother never had a problem or any confusion calling him dad. Our mother calls him by his first name, so I don't think it seemed odd that we did as well.

I LOVE my stepfather and consider him my dad, but it always felt "right" to call him by his name. Don't worry too much about it. Kids will adapt and it doesn't matter what everyone calls each other, as long as you create a family atmosphere is what really matters.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Emily,
How about Pa or Papa? I have a friend that her daughter calls her dad...baba.
I think it is great how you are raising the kids!
S.

1 mom found this helpful

How about "papa"? It's what my Indian brother-in-law calls his dad.

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I think as adults we are all too hung up on 'labels'.
It's just a name, really, and maybe you might not want to attach too much significance on it?
Your older kids already know they are different, anyway, because they go away and visit their dad, but not the baby? I understand wanting minimize the differences, but it's just a name.
I suggest you continue to allow your kids call your husband by his name if that's what they've always done. Choosing something else for them to call him now will seem awkward and forced, in my opinion.
Unless they can come up with an idea of another name and it's their choice. But they get to call their real father "Dad". How will your youngest feel? Won't he want to have a "Dad" in his life too?
My kids refer to my husband as "BD" (bonus-dad) sometimes, just because he and decided we didn't really like the negative connotation that "step-mom" or "step-dad" has. But mostly just call him by his first name, as they always have since they've known him (almost three years now).
His two kids call me by my first name.
My kids know who their father is, they visit him every week, and they call him Dad.
We aren't having any children together, though, so we don't really have the same issue that you have.
I suppose what I am attempting to say here is they probably don't care. It's more for you than for them.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi Emily,
We also have a step family with his, hers and ours type deal so I can appreciate your dilemma here ;-) We have six total. He had two, I had three and we had one together. What we did was just allow the kids to call him and me, what they were comfortable with. His kids call me by my first name and my kids call him by his first name. Our youngest who is now ten, has never slipped and called him by his first name. Now our kids have introduced us to their friends as mom or dad but at home they use first names.
Our daughter did ask questions when she was old enough to understand and we explained it to her at her level and she seemed fine with it. So I'm not so sure you have too much to worry about, at least we didnt.

What we didn't want was the kids to feel forced to call us mom or dad or anything else...it was a respect thing I guess with the kids and the ex's as well...you know we didn't want friction with them either. So like you said, speak to them first to find out what they are comfortable with, because in the end, it really will be up to the kids and how they feel.
Good luck and congratulations ;-)

1 mom found this helpful

This is a hard one I am sorry you have to go through figuring this out...What about Bapa?!

1 mom found this helpful

This should not be about you, your husband, or the new baby. Divorce is hard on children, and now they have 2 houses, two familys. Let them do what feels right and comfortable to them. You can talk to them about your desire to maybe find a name everyone could use, but don't push the issue or make it out like you all will be disappointed if they don't call him X. Let them deal with all this change. Talk with them, they may have fears that the step-dad will not see them the same after he has his own child. Start the conversation and then let the children lead the way.

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