How to greet the stepmom or ex-wife at the door when the kids swap houses

Sleeping_guard_catSo the mom or stepmom is here to pick up the kids and it’s usually... awkward. Whether you like this person or not, it’s in the best interests of the children and your stress levels and sanity to make this as positive an experience as possible. With the right perspective and some basic manners, it’s totally doable.


  • Children
  • Any belongings the kids need to take with them
  • A calm, can-do attitude
  • Good manners

(Difficulty Level: Moderate to Difficult)

  • When the doorbell rings, lower the noise level in the house by turning down or turning off the TV or any music so you can easily hear and speak to each other.
  • If you’re on the phone, continue your conversation later.
  • Put any barking or jumping dogs temporarily away.
  • Take a deep breath before you turn the door knob.  Then take one more.Door_glass
  • Relax your face. 
  • As you open the door, smile!  Make eye contact.
  • Ask the stepmom or mom to come in and make eye contact again.  Be warm, if possible.
  • Make chit-chat: ask her about traffic, the weather, etc.  (If you there’s something specific you know she’s been doing, follow-up on that to let her know that you pay attention to the things she’s interested in.)
  • Invite her to sit down if the kids are being slow.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, try to imagine that you’re talking to a neighbor you don’t know very well.  You would still be polite and friendly, right?
  • If there’s any information you need to communicate to her, do that now (homework deadlines, medical or dental appointments, illnesses, playdates, etc.). Write information down if need be.Back_to_school
  • When everyone is ready to go, say goodbye to the kids.  Say something simple and encouraging about their upcoming time together (“Enjoy your new book!  Have a good time at ___!”). You want the kids to feel optimistic about making the transition to the other house. If they see that you’re calm and agreeable, it will help them develop the same perspective.
  • Make sure to say goodbye to the stepmother or ex-wife as well; addressing her by name is a nice touch.  Make eye contact again.
  • Gently close the door.
  • Take a deep breath.  Then take another one.

Tips & Notes

Tip: Be prepared. Make sure the kids have packed up beforehand and their things are ready by the door. Help them if they need it.

Tip: Talk to the kids beforehand about not dawdling so you don’t keep the stepmom or mom waiting.

Dirty_laundry Tip: Don’t worry about how clean your house is compared to their house. This is a contest no one will ever win.

A note to Moms: Even if you don’t like the stepmother, she’ll be taking care of your children for a set period of time, so you want to set the right tone with her from the very beginning, for the kids’ sake.  If the children see you interacting with the stepmother with courtesy and respect, you convey the message that you expect the same behavior from them. 

Bitten Nip any bad behavior from the children towards the stepmother in the bud immediately. Take them aside privately and let them know that this person is to be treated with consideration, no matter what. Not liking someone is no excuse to let manners fly out the window.

A note to Stepmoms: Even if you don't like the mother (or the kids!), do your best to keep the feeling in the air positive and clear.  Not liking someone is no excuse to just toss your manners in the dumpster.

Stone_rainbow If you're having difficulties with the stepchildren, try not to transpose your feelings of frustration and anger (especially potential judgments about her parenting skills that you believe are contributing to your problems) onto the mom.  If you’ve got a beef with the mom, see if can take it up with her privately.  Take things one experience at a time.

© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine    All Rights Reserved

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