Project Genesis

Family and Relationships


Addressing a Step-Parent

Question: I am divorced and have 2 children. Their dad is remarried and he and his wife are insisting that the children refer to her as “Ima” which to me seems inappropriate and disrespectful to me. When I mentioned it, he said that his Rabbi told him its disrespectful for the kids to call her by her first name. Are there no laws saying its disrespectful towards me, their birth mother? I have custody of them and he sees them approx 2-3x a week. What does the Torah say about children referring to their step parents? Thanks.

Answer: This, obviously, is a tricky situation with no easy answer. You are correct that your children are required to show you respect and, technically speaking, if you do not like them calling their father’s new wife “Ima” then they should not do it. On the other hand, they are also obligated to show respect to a step mother and they should not call her by name.

I believe that many people will use a distinct title for a step mother – perhaps calling her “Mommy” and reserving “Ima” for their real mother. I wonder if such a compromise might not work out. I wish you success navigating this difficult period.

With regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton
Ottawa, Canada

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