How to Be a Great Step dad
Few things are more difficult for a child than to lose a parent. Loss due to death is the ultimate tragedy, but divorce takes its own powerful toll. Be genuinely sensitive to the child’s situation, whether you’re already a step dad or not. It’s not going to be easy filling the huge void created by the loss or absence of their biological father. But if you start from love it’s not impossible to build a healthy and happy relationship with the children of the woman you love.
You Will Never Replace Their Father
So don’t even try. Doing so is the same as trying to be somebody you’re not. Children usually know when somebody is phony. It’s important to be who you are, especially if you try to be like their dad. Don’t worry about knowing whether you accidentally cross the line because they’ll tell you—loud and clear. You’re probably going to hear things like “You’re not my real dad!” and “I hate you, my daddy would let me do that!” Don’t let the words get to you. You’re supposed to be the adult so just listen and respond to the feelings behind the words.
If the biological father is involved with the children, try to establish a cordial and peaceful relationship with him. If he sees you as a competitor this might not be possible, but most loving fathers will do just about anything to help their kids. See if you can enlist his aid. He may be willing to help you if convinced it’s in his children’s best interests.
Give and Gain Respect
Without mutual respect it’s going to be impossible to restore a family. Bad personal habits are a bulls-eye for your step children’s scorn. “He’s a drunk,” “He’s a pothead,” “He’s a slob,” you get the idea. So clean yourself up or hypocrisy will be apparent and despised.
Try to be a friend. You can’t buy their love so don’t just give them money. Instead, offer to help them with their homework. Listen to their complaints and questions and then answer as honestly and sincerely as you can.
Become interested in the things they find important. Help with their hobbies and attend their activities. Caring about what’s going on in their life goes a long way toward winning respect. Avoid being aloof and distant.
Without trying to be too “cool,” do something fun with the kids. Do things as a family and try to find activities everyone can enjoy.
Introduce them to your world. Take them to work with you one day. Introduce them to your family. Engage them in your hobbies. If they want to know, tell them more about yourself.
Some things are going to invite disaster. For example, if you have children of your own living in the home, you must always stay sharply attuned to issues of fairness. Kids have very delicate scales of justice. Make sure it’s the same chores, same rules, same consequences and same amount of love.
If the children moved out of their home the trauma is multiplied. The best comparison is having a house-fire that took away everything that mattered to you. The fire in these children’s lives took their father and maybe their friends and pets too.
Some of the worse complications arise from issues related to discipline. Find out what rules and consequences your wife has already established. Unless something is completely off-base, buy into her system and then work as a team. If you disagree with her, take it up in private. If you ever try to force her to choose between you and the kids, she will stand by her children. Nevertheless, your rights and territory need to be clearly understood by all. If you have your own kids and treat them even slightly different, there won’t be anything slight about their resentment. It’s vital to identify and work on potential complications before they get out of control.
Love Their Mother
The strongest tool you have for building a strong relationship with your stepchildren is also the easiest to use – your love for their mom. Love for our mother is one of the most powerful human emotions. Be sure that you never belittle, mistreat, humiliate or hurt their mother in any way. Avoid arguing, especially around the kids. Remember that you have to share her. Their time with her is valuable and generally non-negotiable.