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How to Be a Good Stepfather
by Dore Frances, IEC, MA, founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLCBeing a stepfather can be fulfilling and challenging. When you marry a person with children, you need to consider them part of a package deal, to be loved, nurtured, and protected to the best of your ability.
Be a good example to your stepchild. Drinking, drugs and smoking have no place in a home with children in it. This may not be the politically correct position, but from the effects of second hand smoke on young lungs, to the acceptance of illegal drugs, these are not good behaviors to model for children.
Balance the gifts and time you give your own children with the stepchild. They are a part of your family, not to be treated like second class citizens or outcasts.
Be patient when waiting for your new stepchild to respond to your affection, caring and love. Often, the child is deeply wounded by circumstances involving their biological father, and building a new relationship is threatening to them.
Be yourself. It is almost impossible to set up a pretence of doing, being, enjoying, or acting in ways that are not YOU. You may impress your step child for a while, but the real you will emerge sooner or later.
Discuss decisions which effect your stepchild with his or her mother. Don't sign them up for a summer at a camp or sports club without talking it over with her. Don't buy them firearms...or fireworks, even seemingly harmless ones like paintball guns or bb guns without her knowledge and consent.
Help plan the future of the children. It may fall on you to begin a savings plan for college expenses, the first car, and helping to find that first job.
Keep your negative opinions of the child's biological father to yourself unless you are asked directly, and be circumspect when this occasion happens if there is a risk of an emotional overflow.
Invite the child to participate in your own activities. If you fish, golf, or do other hobby activities where it is appropriate, take your stepchild along. Not only does this give them a chance to see what you enjoy, but it gives their mother a break.
Never argue with the child's mother in front of the child, and be especially careful about making derogatory remarks about her where the child may hear.
Respect the child's mother's disciplinary and homework regimens, and when you think they may be out of line, talk to her privately about your concerns, not in front of the child.
Respect the child's private space. Any child, from preteen through their teen years deserve a reasonable amount of privacy and private space, and unless there is serious concern about the child's behavior or activity, the more space they are given, the more trusted they will feel.
Remember, being a stepdad is a leadership role as part of a team. Accept the unique qualities of each team member, the limitations, even the eccentricities. There will be good times, even great times, but there will be conflict, disagreements, and letdowns. Patience, love, and a sympathetic view will help you through these challenges. You are the adult, no matter what the situation, you need to remember that, and that problems may seem huge, but often will be forgotten in tomorrows rush, or laughed about next year.
Spend time with the stepchild in their activities. Helping with projects, school work, and attending sporting events or clubs like scouting they are involved with will show them you are willing to support their efforts.
Show the child you are willing to help out in housework. In this age with so many mothers working to support or help in supporting the family, it is important for children to understand that keeping a household is a family job, not just the mother's.
Talk about computer games, video games, and other cultural influences with their mother. Social pressure will often press on Mom to let them do it, whatever "it" is, because everyone else is doing "it". Each family needs to have its own standards and ethical codes to live by. The child's mother needs your support and input on deciding whether to let the child have graphic or violent video games in the home, or allowing them to go to "R" rated movies with their friends.
Watch how your step child interacts with your own children if you have any. Jealousy is toxic to any relationship, and when this appears to be occurring, try to head it off immediately. To maintain a happy family atmosphere, step-sibling anger must be dealt with fairly and prudently.
Do not let the idea of wanting to be a "best friend" cloud your judgement. When a child wants to do something dangerous or that their Mother disapproves of, they may try to enlist you as an advocate for them, and this puts you at odds with their Mother, your wife.
Becoming a stepfather puts you in a position of responsibility for protecting the child from a host of dangers. Be aware of the risks which the child faces and be on the lookout for dangers around the home. Small children suffer from terrible harm every day because of carelessness.
You will need:
- A good sense of humor
Dore Frances, IEC, MA, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:Dore@DoreFrances.com.
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