Building a blended family is a difficult task, especially for the step-dad who is taking on an unusual and challenging role within the family unit. It can be difficult for stepfathers to develop relationship with their stepchildren. They lack the biological connection as well as the growing love a biological father enjoys throughout the ageing of their child.
Most stepchildren spend far more time with their stepfathers than with their biological fathers. This means that the connection between stepfather and stepchild should be nurtured and cared for. It’s easy to ignore the lack of a strong connection with stepchildren because establishing the connection is difficult and challenging.
The following guide will help fathers build better blended families and stronger relationships with their step-children.
Respect the Biological Father
It’s important not to overwhelm stepchildren by attempting to become too involved in their lives. If the stepchild is behaving in a rejecting manner, the child may be attempting to maintain loyalty to their biological father. It’s important to respect the child’s biological father and avoid making negative or derogatory remarks. Even if the biological father was not a positive figure in the child’s life, talking negatively about the biological father or actively attempting to replace him could result in hostility.
It is also important that stepfathers allow their stepchildren to call them by their first name while they get used to the idea of calling them “dad”. Forcing a child to recognise the stepfather as their true father could scare the child and lead to resentment.
The best way to get involved in the life of a stepchild is by finding common interests. If the stepfather and stepchild both love model trains they may benefit from building one together or taking a trip to a model train museum. This can lead to a special connection between the stepchild and stepfather that is shared only between the two of them. This allows the stepchild to feel important and special, especially in cases where the father has his own biological children.
If no common interests can be found than the stepfather should meet the child on his or her own ground. Choose something that the child is interested in and pursue it together. This will help the child realise how much the stepfather values his or her interests.
Don’t Play Favorites
If the stepfather has his own biological children it is important that he does not treat them differently from the stepchild. This can happen unintentionally, especially when the father has special connections to his biological children or special hobbies they participate in together. It is important that the father invites the stepchildren to participate in all activities that the biological children participate in.
This does not mean that quality time cannot be spent with each child individually. Quality time is an excellent way to strengthen the bond between a biological or stepfather and his child. It’s important that the quality time is equal and that casual play involves both biological and step children.
Stepchildren frequently harbour deep fears of rejection and abandonment. It is important that the stepfather establishes himself as a constant and reliable parental figure. This includes showing up to activities that he agrees to attend and following through with commitments. The stepchild will grow to see the stepfather’s constant involvement as a sign that he will be sticking around for the long haul.
It’s important the mother and stepfather work together when disciplining the children. This means that both parents need to reenforce each other’s decisions. This is necessary in all successful parental units, but is especially important in relationships between the stepfather and stepchild. If the child sees that the mother undermines the parental actions of the stepfather, the child will not take his role as father seriously. Additionally, if the stepfather undermines the mother’s authority they may see it as a betrayal of their mother or the family unit as a whole.
Stepfathers should also avoid breaking any pre-set family rules. Breaking these rules will make the stepchild feel as if their home life is being disrupted which can cause them to be extra wary of the stepfather. This may create a rift between the stepfather and stepchild which can be difficult to repair.