Mistakes Step-Parents Make

We all make mistakes, even though we may not like to admit it. Being a dad is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and once you throw step kids into the mix, the role gets even harder. There’s no one right way to stepparent, as you’ll have to tailor your approach based on the ages and genders of your stepchildren. But there are some mistakes that you can avoid right off the bat. In fact, these mistakes are some of the worst you can make and to some children, unforgiveable.

First, don’t badmouth your stepchildren’s biological father. Your stepchildren are 50 percent their mother and 50 percent their father, so when you badmouth a parent, you’re essentially badmouthing them. This can be especially damaging in the beginning of the relationship when your stepchildren may see you as a threat or as trying to replace their father.

Remember that your stepchildren can overhear you as well, so don’t think that because they’re out of the room it’s okay to say negative things. Also tell your partner to refrain from badmouthing her ex around her children. If something must be discussed, do it when the children are out of the home. Really, it’s best to avoid this all together, so get in the habit of being nice – you may even like it.

Another common mistake that stepparents make is that they fail to recognize the effort that goes into becoming a stepfamily. With over half of American families being divorced and over 65 percent of those families including children, blended families are commonplace. But just because stepfamilies are widespread doesn’t mean that the relationships within them are easy. Don’t expect you, your partner and stepchildren to blend into a new family. Your stepfamily will be a combination of two families, so you want to respect the traditions, hobbies and interests that your stepchildren once shared with their family.

Stepparents tend to rush things, primarily because they’re excited to be starting a new journey in their life. Guys are especially notorious for this, as we’re not the best at handling the emotional side of relationships. So be warned, you don’t want to make another mistake by not allowing your stepchildren to have plenty of quality time with their parent. You may want to spend all your time with your new spouse, but your stepchildren need to spend quality time with their mom, especially as the transitions take place.

Kids are known for acting out, and depending on the age of your stepchildren, they may start acting babyish, lying or getting into trouble at school. When you allow one-on-one time, your stepchildren will see that you value the relationship they have with their mom and have no intention of coming in between them. Plus, it gives them a chance to talk about things they may not feel comfortable expressing in front of you quite yet.

Finally, avoid the mistake of being the reinforcer who handles the discipline but doesn’t give praise. As men, we like to take control of our families, establish rules, set boundaries and determine consequences. While you’ll want to discuss ground rules with your partner, you don’t want to be the reinforcer quite yet.

Even worse is when you hand out the consequences but forget to acknowledge your stepchildren for the good they do. Be sure to take an active interest in their lives, ask questions and offer praise and encouragement. You don’t need to overdo it, but simply show that you care about your stepchildren’s potential and recognize the progress made in all areas of life.

Step Parenting – Building a Successful Blended Family

With the divorce rate so high today, it is not uncommon for a parent to marry and have children from a previous relationship. Step parenting is a little more complicated than parenting your own biological kids. There are other parents involved, but building a successful blended family is possible with a little work and effort.

As a step parent, there is no biological or blood tie between you and the child. You also have to deal with any interactions or visits from the biological parent who does not live with the child. For example, you could marry a woman who has two children from a previous marriage. She may have joint custody, with the ex-husband having custody on the weekends. What is your role as the stepfather who lives with the children?

The most important thing to consider is to present a united front with the mother, who is also your wife. Consistency is important when parenting, especially to young children. Creating a stable environment with established boundaries will provide comfort to the child. The child will know what to expect and hopefully will abide by these boundaries. You will probably become the main male role model in the house, as you are there every day and the children will see you interacting with their mother. They will seek you out for attention and guidance. Constant positive interaction between you and the children will create a stable family relationship.

If the relationship with the ex-husband is amicable, then you as the stepfather should also try to establish a similar type of relationship with him. That would make the custody transitions easier and less stressful for the whole family and allow for an open path of communication. When he comes to pick up the kids for the weekend, you want the children to see everyone getting along.

For older children, your role may be a little different. Older children, especially those who are teenagers, are more aware and independent. You as a stepfather may play more the role of a friend or trusted adult, similar to that of a teacher. You do not want to replace their biological father in their eyes, but you need to make sure that they see you as a person of authority in the household.

As with any relationship, you need to constantly work at maintaining that relationship. The same holds true with step parenting. As the children grow older and mature, you may need to adjust your parenting methods. Communication with your spouse is key to a successful blended family.

How To Bond With Stepchildren

Let’s face it – it’s difficult enough to be a parent to your own children, but what about being a stepparent? Research shows that it takes an average of five to seven years for a stepfamily to accept their new roles and have stress levels return to normal. While you can’t speed up the clock on this one, there are proactive steps you can take to bond with your stepchildren. Like most men, you want to take care of your family, and you can only do this by having positive relationships with everyone in the household.

For starters, don’t expect everything to happen overnight. You may be feeling young and exuberant again as you fall in love with someone new and enjoy a fresh start in life. For children, these changes can be frightening and lead to feelings of resentment. It’s always best to start the bonding process before you remarry, even if remarriage is something that you and your new partner want right away. It’s best to take things slow so that you can adjust to the children and vice versa. When everyone is comfortable with each other, planning a marriage is much easier than throwing together an unsettled family.

Remember that just as your stepchildren won’t fall in love with you overnight, neither will you. Like any type of relationship, the bonding between a stepfather and his stepchildren is one that takes time. This relationship is built on trust, and your stepchildren can only gain this trust when they see your commitment to the family. It’s important to be on the same page with your partner, so make sure that you agree on the rules and consequences before trying to parent. When your stepchildren see that there are clear, concise rules to follow, they’ll be more likely to oblige.

As you embark on your new journey as a stepfather, be patient and most importantly, be yourself. Depending on the situation, you may see your stepchildren daily or on weekends. If you only see your stepchildren on occasion, remember to experience real life together, instead of limiting yourself to fun activities such as amusement parks and move nights. You want to show your stepchildren how to be a family and the lifestyle you and your partner intend to lead.

Your relationship with your stepchildren will be influenced by the children’s age, gender and relationship with their biological father. Despite these factors, know that all children want to be loved, appreciated, respected and valued. Create an open and honest environment where your stepchildren feel comfortable talking to you. Praise and encourage them for their achievements, and let them take a role in the decision-making process when it comes to planning meals, renting a movie or choosing a vacation destination. It’s easy for children to feel invisible, so let them know they are active members in the family.

You may feel that some days you make progress, while other days you take a step back. This is normal. We all have good and bad days, and your family will go through many emotions before normalcy is achieved. Your consistent role will be enough over time to give your stepchildren the security and assurance they need to be confident members in the family. And as difficult as it may be, don’t take on the role as the disciplinarian quite yet. Work with your partner to establish ground rules, but don’t be the reinforcer early on. You have plenty of years to play this role, but for now, it’s best to sit this one out.

Tips for Stepfathers Raising Stepdaughters

Raising biological children is challenging enough, but when you become a stepfather, forming relationships can be much more difficult. When you first enter your stepdaughter’s life, you can expect a ‘honeymoon’ period, before she may ultimately become distant. This is because the reality of your presence in her life has finally started to settle in. She may not understand why her mother has found a replacement for her father, and may blame you for the major changes she will have to endure. She will need some time, sometimes a lot of time, to come to the realization that you are there to stay. There are many things that a stepfather can do to facilitate the process.

Move at Her Pace

Be patient and allow the relationship to move at your stepdaughter’s own pace. It can be difficult forming relationships with new stepparents and stepsiblings. Along with that, come the challenges of understanding and dealing with differences in personalities. Children can often form judgments without properly getting to know you first.

All family members are likely to have issues adjusting to family changes, and might feel jealous, insecure, or lonely. As time moves on, she will want to involve you more as a father figure in her life. Whether it be asking for your help with homework, or lunch money for school. It’s important to let her know that you do not want to replace her father. She will respect you for that.

Living Day to Day

New changes in your stepdaughter’s life can take some time getting used to. Children respond to habits and routine, including small everyday things such as household chores or the foods they eat. Try not to change things in her life too much, and instead, spend time doing things she enjoys. Involve yourself by attending clubs or her sporting events to show her that you’re willing to make an effort. Invite your stepdaughter to also participate in your own activities.

Be very cautious when easing into discipline. Any attempt to come into your stepdaughter’s home and enforce rules can lead to resentment. This can put added stress on the relationship with both your stepdaughter and new partner. Be sensitive when dealing with territorial subjects, and encourage her rather than becoming negative. Respect the mother’s disciplinary regimens, and talk to her privacy about your concerns, never in front of your stepdaughter.

Stay Connected

Major family changes, like having more children, can bring about a range of emotions from your stepdaughter. It’s important to do your best to maintain a relationship with your stepdaughter during these chaotic times. Do as much as you can to involve her in the pregnancy, so she does not feel left out. Have her help pick out baby clothes, decorate the nursery, or choose baby names.

When the new baby arrives, you may have a tendency to pay more attention to the new addition. Your stepdaughter may become concerned that you will be more attached to your biological child than to her. During this time, it’s important for her to understand that you will continue to value her relationship. Make every effort to make her feel like an equal in the family.

Raising a stepdaughter can be highly difficult, and may take years before you are truly accepted as a father figure in her life. By being understanding and sensitive to her needs, you can make the transition easier. With time and commitment, you can build an everlasting bond with your stepchild.

How to be a Successful Stepdad

Assuming the role of stepdad is a herculean task for most men. Men without their own children find parenting full-time to be overwhelming at first. It is a natural response. Knowing what to expect and respecting the time it takes to form true bonds with stepchildren is paramount to successful step-parenting.

A rookie mistake is expecting too much, too soon. Once a marriage proposal has taken place, a future stepdad likely has an idealistic notion the children will be as in love with him as mom is. That is usually not the case. In instances where a man in the boyfriend role has a great relationship with the children, the tables often turn when the children realize the man is to be a permanent fixture in their life.

Most children have a hope or expectation their parents will reunite. An engagement speaks to the fact their parents are not getting back together. A properly prepared stepdad-to-be recognizes this and works hard to ensure the fallout is lessened once he and his bride say, “I do.”

Stepdads bond with step-children in a variety of ways. The first way is to take a genuine interest in the children’s lives. This does not mean stepping up to coach the soccer team within the first year of becoming a family. It has to do with asking questions about their life and expressing concern and interest in their responses.

Becoming accustomed to their likes and dislikes is a major component to success. When left alone to prepare dinner, a stepdad should know what the children like without having to be told more than once about an allergy to or genuine disdain for certain foods. Thorough knowledge of the children’s interests affords stepdads the ability to plan fun afternoons together when mom is not present.

Despite the best intentions of both mom and stepdad, discipline issues often result in heated debates. Prior to cohabitation with the stepchildren’s mom, it is vital to define her expectations regarding discipline. She may be accustomed to the adult male in the home assuming the disciplinarian role. This is a slippery slope for new stepdads.

A knee-jerk reaction to being disciplined by a new stepparent compels many children to rebel. A stepdad should not be the primary disciplinarian to his stepchildren. In an ideal situation, there are household rules children must abide by. This scenario places mom and stepdad in an equal playing field. Any infraction should be handled equally by either adult in the home.

Assuming the role of friend is a mistake made by many stepdads. Children need boundaries and should not be afforded indiscretions in attempt to gain their favor. Presenting a united front with their mother is a key to a successful start to forming bonds with stepchildren.

Regardless of the role the biological father plays in the children’s lives, it is vital to never speak against him in the home. When feeling the pressures of the new step-dad role, it can be tempting to bring up the negatives about the children’s father. Speaking down about him must be avoided. If their biological father falls short of his role as a good dad, they already know it and will only resent the new male role-model in their life for drawing attention to it.

Step-children may rally against the new male figure in their life. Eventually, they do come around as long as their stepdad is consistent in respecting them and staying plugged in to their daily happenings. Affording them the feeling of unconditional love and respect reinforces the fact their new stepdad isn’t going anywhere.