Watching Stepmom on Sunday evening, I could not help but wonder what advice I would give if I were acting for one of the parties.
Jackie (played by Susan Sarandon) and her husband Luke (Ed Harris) separate and Luke starts a new relationship with Isabel (Julia Roberts). Throughout the film, we see a whole rollercoaster of emotions as each of the adults tries to adjust to the new arrangements and each of them tries to do what they think is best for the children.
As family solicitors, we see all sorts of relationships come to an end, and new relationships start to take form. New relationships can sometimes become the cause of disputes, either between the parents or between one parent and the other’s new partner.
There are a few lessons which can be learned from Stepmom:
– Discuss matters with the other parent in advance, and wherever possible present a united front: Luke informs Jackie that he intends to propose to Isabel. Whilst she is not happy with the idea, Jackie agrees to sit down with Luke and together to inform the children of what will happen, giving the children the opportunity to ask questions.
– Support your children to accept any new relationship: At one point, Jackie’s son tells her that he can hate Isabel if she wants him to. As tempting as it may be to allow the children to take sides, this does not promote their relationship with the other parent.
– Allow the children to contact the other parent while they are in your care: Luke allows the children to telephone Jackie while they are with him; and their son benefits from the security of being able to say goodnight to his mother.
Whilst not all families will find themselves in a position where they can all celebrate Christmas together, ensuring that all the adults involved have a civil relationship is an important part of helping the children to deal with change.