Father’s Day is just around the corner. In many blended families, they may not even be recognized but stepfathers need special recognition too. They play an important role in the family, even though they might not be the biological father of all the children. Often the biological parent is the focus of these holidays. So, it’s important to pay tribute to the stepdads as well. Think about it for a moment. They have a full plate and often come up short; “He’s not my dad”. “I don’t have to listen to him”, can be a frequent comment.
What can we do to change the perspective? Maybe some insight into their role and the difficulties they face becoming a family member would make it easier to understand. All PRO DAD is a group of people passionately committed to bringing intentional focus to fathers around the world. Susan Merrill, a contributor to All PRO DAD explains: Being a stepdad is like walking into an emotional minefield. He tries to simultaneously recover from the wounds in his own past, build a new marriage with his wife, and settle into this new family situation with his wife’s children and possibly children from his previous marriage. And all this takes place in the aftermath of your wife’s ex-husband, who still seems to linger mystically—if not physically—in the shadows of this new household.”
Sounds like a huge undertaking, doesn’t it? Yet stepfathers are crucial to a new family. Understanding some of the challenges is a start. Here are some things to focus on in changing a negative or dysfunctional situation.
1. Support the relationship with the biological father if he is still in the picture. Keep in mind that half of his kids’ DNA comes from him; criticizing him is, in a way, criticizing them. Avoid comparing yourself to his way of parenting. Acknowledge that his role as their father has been there long before you came into the picture. He has a history with them and can be helpful in learning more about what his kids like.
2. Don’t insist your kids call him Dad. For some kids that may be okay. Better to check with them about their preference. Giving them this option shows respect.
3. A point of tension for a new stepfather is knowing how and to what extent he should be involved in the discipline of your children. Guys, have a discussion with your new partner about how she would like you to be part of the process. Often it is the biological parent that administers discipline with school-age kids. This plan is open for discussion and should be worked out together. Maybe your role would be to back her up and support her instead. Any disagreements would be best solved by talking in private away from the kids.
4. Spend time alone with your partner. Showing a commitment to your marriage is important in creating a lasting and comfortable environment for the kids. They may have already come from a failed marriage and would benefit if they could see love, respect, and consistency.
5. Practice acceptance. These are new people, and their ways may not be like yours. Try to see value in the differences and accept the uniqueness of each kid. Support the changes and accommodate as best as you can to the newness of the family.
Having mentioned these challenges, let’s honor and pay tribute to all the stepdads on Father’s Day. It is their day, too.
What do you do in your family to make your stepdad feel included or special?