“Follow your heart, but be quiet for a while first. Ask questions, then feel the answer. Learn to trust your heart.” -unknown
If you are married to a woman with children from another relationship, you most likely experience tension and uncertainty at times. Whether or not you have biological children of your own, these feelings are common. The stepparent role is impacted by many outside factors including ex-spouses, parents, friends, and your community.
- Note to stepdad: One key difference between biological moms and biological dads, is that biological dads often experience heightened concern with regard to another man living with and being in a parental role to his children. Additionally, this matter appears to be more noteworthy with daughters.
As a new stepdad,” you must be mentally prepared to shine through the dark glasses of those that are watching you.” Trust and respect will take time to earn all around. Be mindful of the big picture and don’t let other player’s negative words or unhelpful actions hinder your mission to blend.
13 Tips for Stepdads:
- Be the best “you” in every moment.
- Encourage the children’s relationship with the biological father. Be careful at all times not to say insulting remarks about the biological father, even if sarcastic or trivial. Children claim a part of each parent and will feel like you are wounding them as well when you degrade a parent. Keeping your comments clean will help the children feel okay with accepting you as a step-parent.
- Assure all children and adults, that you are not trying to replace the father figure or his role. This is true even if the biological dad is the biggest jerk on the planet!
- Respect that children do best when both biological parents are active in their lives.
- Let your spouse discipline, especially at the beginning. You may need to remind your spouse of her role as well: Women often feel a sense of relief with another man around the family. However, your family will benefit if your spouse does not rely on you set the ground rules or lay down the law. Discipline is best left to the biological parents for some time if not long term. Also, take into account the age group and gender of your children/teens.
- Be the bigger man and invite the biological father to get to know you. This can be done by initiating light conversation during transitions, attending children’s school or sporting events and interacting in small doses or through phone/email in some situations. Be mindful of the biological dad’s current and past feelings. All family members will benefit from interactions.
- Be a “mench.” Help the biological father feel comfortable with you being a role model for his children. Over time, the biological father will most often become grateful that you are his children’s stepdad.
- Support and encourage your spouse to have a co-parenting relationship with her ex.
- Understand that any harsh words, impulsive behaviors or mean spirited acts against you by the children have little or nothing to do with you. Children often act out in anger when they are afraid, scared or uncomfortable. Remember, they may be sensing insecurity or jealousy from the biological father and wanting to protect him or the change may be scary.
- Let go of any jealousy or anger you carry in relation to the ex. You will avoid cyclical conflict and create more space for love and joy when you decide to “let it all go” now.
- Make time for yourself.
- Create space for intimacy with your spouse.
- Laugh and smile often!
- With commitment, strength and levity your marriage and new family will celebrate greater peace and joy, regardless of the obstacles along the way.
Best to you & your blending family,
To have fun with your step kids, it is helpful to use games such as Earthquake in Zipland which combine the challenge of a quest computer game with an opportunity to elaborate on serious issues in a roundabout manner.