One mantra that a lot of frazzled step parents may fall into is the standard “NMKNMP”, meaning exactly that. The step child is not yours and so when something is going wrong you can step back, relax, and let the bio parents deal with it.
This works in some households. I have seen it work and I know it takes a specific kind of person to step back and look at things objectively and not worry about the chaos around them.
I am not one of those people.
The problem with this approach is that other kids DO affect your household. The other bio parent DOES indeed affect your household. Standing back and just watching everything unfold does not always work.
For instance, sometimes a parent may have a messed up childhood themselves or a twisted way of viewing the world. Our views affect our children, especially when they are younger, and we have to be aware of that, but some parents are not. And so when there are unhealthy behaviors and attitudes being repeated it is sometimes necessary to correct it at your house or to directly address it, depending on the child’s age.
I have learned that badmouthing a bio parent is never the way to go. Children see themselves of parts of a whole. They are half mom and half dad. If you badmouth dad or mom, they see themselves as half bad. We need to keep in mind that honesty is not the same as badmouthing, though. In some families a parent may be disordered and so questions may arise from the children from time-to-time. In this case I’ve found honesty is the best policy because if you sit back and let things be said and misinterpreted the kids will grow to resent it.
I can’t talk up therapy enough. Kids stuck in a situation like that unquestionably need therapy. They need to be taught to handle situations in a healthy way and to handle their emotions the same.
Passing off the NMKNMP mantra on kids who deal with stuff like this is unacceptable. This child lives in your home? Then you have taken on a responsibility to at least *try* to intervene, to talk to the bio parent you’re living with to get the child some help.
What if you have children of your own who are being affected indirectly by this other bio parent and their issues? How is it fair to you and your child(ren) to ignore these issues and leave it up to your significant other?
And so there have to be times where this theory does not apply. Never feel guilty for getting involved, especially when it is helping you and your household to be more healthy. When it stops doing that, it is time to think about stepping back.