Fielding Questions from Potential Stepchildren
Questions from potential stepchildren can come at any age and are often embarrassing, horrifying, blatantly honest, thought provoking, or food for thought. The motivation behind a question determines whether or not it is insulting or inquisitive — and you may not always be able to gauge the true motivation. In these cases, it is best to answer honestly, and a simple, “I don't know. That is a tough one, can I think about it?” is perfectly acceptable.
Listen and Respond Appropriately
Examples of questions that may be valid but insulting include: “Are you going to dump my mom after a few dates too?”; “Do you hate my dad?”; “Do you always date married women?”; “Now that you broke up my parents, are you going to try to have a baby with my mom, too?” Questions such as these may sound terrible, but they also have validity behind them. Try to find the meaning behind the insulting part of the question. Children are trying to figure out your intentions. Are you here to stay or are you yet another in a long line of boyfriends? Should they get close to you? Are you going to say mean things about their mother? Are you yet another person who will be joining the parent bashing?
All of these questions have hidden meanings. As the adult, it is your job to take a breath before simply reacting. No matter how snide the question may sound, think for a minute about what the child might be feeling that is causing him to ask you questions like this. What might have caused him to ask a question like this? When you have considered possible factors, answer questions as honestly as possible.
For example, suppose Jenny, your potential stepdaughter, asks, “Are you just another! @#@ my mother is sleeping with who wants to have a baby with her?” Before reacting to the expletive, think for a moment: Has your girlfriend had many other boyfriends who have come in and out of Jenny's life, perhaps taking attention away from her? Is mom a serial dater who had a child with another man, and is now paying less attention to Jenny? Is Jenny simply trying to rattle you and scare you away?
After thinking about all possibilities, a reasonable answer may be, “Gee, Jenny, I'm sorry to hear you think I'm not a very good person. I do enjoy your mother's company, but you are part of your mother's life and I would really like to get to know you. I would like you to get to know me, too, but if you don't feel comfortable with me being around yet, I understand. Would you like to try this again another time?”
Of course, your speech won't be quite so scripted, but something along these lines may help Jenny see that you are not going to feed into her anger; however, you recognize she is angry and appreciate that her anger is real. She will also hear that you are genuinely interested in getting to know her better. She may think you are full of it for months, but if you maintain a non-confrontational manner and remain open about getting to know her, you will eventually make headway.