Whose Picture Goes on the Mantle?
Formal family pictures, holiday pictures, school pictures, and candid shots might all be on display at your home. You might want to take a good look at them and make sure they include all of the people your stepchild sees as his family. You may see your family as including yourself, your partner, your stepchild, and your biological child. Your partner may have the same view. Your stepchild, however, may see his family as including his biological mother, his half-sister on his mother's side, his dog who lives with his mother, his stepfather, and his maternal grandparents. It isn't necessary for you to hang pictures of people you don't know all over the house; however, it might be nice to show your stepson that you respect his idea of family by including a picture that contains those people closest to him. Your stepson may have a picture of his mom and grandparents from a school event that you could offer to place on the mantle or he may prefer to have it on display in his room.
My stepson despises his biological mother and rarely sees her. Do I still have to put up her picture?
These are simply suggestions. You certainly don't have to put anyone's picture up if it doesn't feel right. Asking your stepson if he would like to display a picture of his mother or of another family member currently not on display is a great way to determine what he would like and if these pictures will bring positive or negative memories to mind.
Creating Memories for the Mantle
Creating pictures can be fun, too. Your stepson is most likely going to attend events where pictures will be taken of him and his family. But who is his family? Does he have two completely different families or does everyone join in the picture together? Events like prom, graduation, school concerts, awards ceremonies, and sporting events will bring these questions up in rather public places. It might be embarrassing to your stepson if you don't think about this ahead of time and when picture time arrives you, your partner, and the other biological parent have an argument over who is really his family.
To avoid this as best as you can, try and push any animosity aside and be a good sport about pictures your stepson would like to have. At graduation, he may want a picture with your partner and his other biological parent. Even though this may be uncomfortable for you, these are his biological parents and the people who genetically supplied him with the brain that got him through high school. If your partner makes a stink and wants you included in the picture, support what your stepson wants. Suggest to your partner that he can do both. He can take a picture with the other biological parent and his son and then you can step into the picture. Try to make your stepson's needs the priority. Maybe your stepson will want a picture with you and his other biological parent; this may be really uncomfortable for you, but try to be a good sport and do it for him. If his other biological parent resists the idea, you being a good sport may convince her to go along with it for the sake of her child. This will help give your stepson the keepsake he wants and also help everyone see that they can get along for the sake of a child.
When taking or hanging pictures, try to maintain a nice balance regarding who is involved. If your stepchild lives with the other biological parent and your child lives with you, it may seem natural to have more pictures of your biological child. Be cognizant of this and try to prevent it from happening. Your stepchild should be able to see that he is just as much a part of the family as the folks that live in your house. If you don't see your stepson often and the opportunities to take pictures are minimal, ask your partner to ask the other biological parent for pictures. There are so many ways of sharing pictures now that accessing pictures should be quite simple. You can also share pictures you think the other biological parent may enjoy.
Pictures symbolize important memories of people in our life and the lives of those in our home. Keep in mind that the more inclusive you are of your stepchild and those he thinks of as family, the more included he is likely to feel, and the more welcome he may feel in your home. Small gestures like this may even help break down any negative feelings between you and the other biological parent. It may be nice for her to hear that you have pictures up of everyone who is important to her son, and she may feel that you are truly trying to support her son and those he thinks of as family. So no matter how much you do not want to stand next to the other biological parent at graduation, think of your stepchild and the memories you are creating with him. How would you like him to remember these moments? Hopefully with a smile; so grin and bear it if you must, but try your hardest to look genuinely happy.
Be thoughtful about which pictures you share. Do not share pictures with the other biological parent that may come across as “rubbing it in.” If the other biological parent is still feeling wounded by the breakup, sharing a picture of you and your partner smooching wouldn't be nice. Also, if the other biological partner despises you, don't share pictures that contain you. Instead, share pictures of your stepson alone or with other people with whom she doesn't have an issue.