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.