How to Step Into Fathering

Perhaps you have not been around to be a father to your children and you are just reentering their lives. Or, maybe you are marrying into a family and your fiancé has children that will soon become yours as well. Regardless, there are many ways to step into your new role as the father.

Get Advice in Advance
It is easier to start off on the right foot than it is to backtrack and fix situations that have gotten out of hand. There are many family counselors who can work with you individually help you prepare for this major lifestyle change. They can also include your wife and children if you feel it is necessary, and help all of you adjust to your new family structure.

Collaborate With Your Wife
You are both the parents and, unless you are on the same page regarding rules and discipline, get ready for a revolt. Even the best children can find weaknesses and use them as opportunities to gain the upper hand in the family. As the dad, you do have authority in the household along with your wife. Discuss with your wife how you can best share the disciplining responsibilities as well as how you can both participate in rewarding good behavior. That way, the children will see you both as positive parental figures in the household.

Open the Lines of Communication
It may be uncomfortable to start a conversation with your new kids, but it is necessary to do so early on. If nothing is said and you just all of a sudden appear in their lives, they can show resentment and start building up hostility. If you formally welcome them into your life, share your feelings and expectations, there will not be anything left to the imagination. Make this step an open dialogue and not just a speech. Ask questions to get the kids involved in the conversation and stay on neutral and light subjects. Then, end by letting them know that you are there for them to come to whenever they have questions or just want to chat.

Be Flexible
New dads often create a picture of how their new family will operate as a unit and become overly stressed if it does not go exactly as planned. It is best to keep a sense of humor and flexible attitude as you step into your new role as father. Some of the steps may take a little more time than others and not all children will react in the same way no matter how much effort you put in. The ages of the children in your family are also a factor. Again, this is where the expertise of a counselor is invaluable. They know what children need and how their thought processes work at different stages of emotional and cognitive development.

Don’t Force It
Insecurity often leads to harsh parenting. All children rebel whether they are your own flesh and blood or new family members. Your new kids may also test their boundaries at first but you, the dad, should resist the urge to over discipline. Conversely, don’t expect your new kids to warm up to you right away. Keep yourself accessible but don’t fear if you are not welcomed into the family right away.

Understand Your Role
If you are coming into a “ready-made” family, chances are that there was a father figure in the house before you arrived. Have a conversation with your new children to let them know that you are not a replacement for him and, most importantly, never speak poorly of him. Get to know your new family on neutral territory at first as you establish your presence in the household. Plan day trips, picnics, and other outings where you can all have a good time together and start creating memories while your new family solidifies.