How to Be a Good Stepdad: Complicated but Worth It
October 3, 2016
She’s amazing. You can’t get enough of her. She’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a woman. The ideal wife. After several months of dating, you’ve met her family and developed a relationship with her child. You’ve decided to get married.
Not only are you excited about being a good husband — you want to be good a good stepdad. Is it just like other parenting? Or are there other obstacles? What’s your role when the stepchild already has a father around? Are you a friend?
In this article, we’ll take a look at what several stepdads had to say about the difficulties and the advice for other stepdads. Hopefully, this information helps you become the stepdad you want to be.
Climbing Stepdad Mountain?
The book The Smart Stepdad begins by comparing the life of a stepdad to climbing a mountain. It’s an arduous journey filled with difficulties — but extremely worthwhile if you manage to make it to the summit. Not only are you getting married to a woman you love, you’re joining the biological parents and helping them raise a child.
What does that entail? The book elaborated on the role of a stepfather saying “… establishing yourself as a teacher, mentor, and influence in their life… you’re trying to connect and bond with them so they’ll want to join you as you journey through life together.”
What Are You Getting Yourself Into?
Men who’ve decided to become stepfathers have to keep in mind that they’re entering an established situation. Even if the biological father is not around, you may be dealing with baggage or emotional residue from a previous relationship. During an interview, founder of Stepdadding.com, Stacey Wheeler spoke on the situation you may find yourself facing:
“… you’re joining a family already in progress, that comes with it a lot of problems that can potentially be there.”
During the interview, Wheeler further elaborated on the changes a stepfather needs to make, which includes adapting and flexibility. You may need to consider malleability, compromising some of your behavior or parenting beliefs in order to accommodate the children.
Get Ready to Make Adjustments
You were a swinging bachelor with freedom. Most men kiss those luxuries goodbye when they get married, but being a stepfather requires additional sacrifices. In a Huffington Post article, entitled “What It’s Like To Become A Stepdad When You Have No Kids Of Your Own, a stepfather spoke on the drastic changes he had to make in his day-to-day life and noted increased stressed levels. The key for him was communication and time management.
The Stages of the Relationship
Don’t think that you’re relationship will be exempt from the stages of a traditional marriage. In order for you to reach that goal of being a good stepdad, to climb to the summit of stepdad mountain, there will be highs and lows. An Online Parenting Coach article pointed out the stepfamily stages:
1. Fantasy Stage — Everyone is happy and your life is like what you see on television.
2. Confusion Stage — This is when a great deal of stress emerges.
3. Conflict Stage — Anger and people feel that their needs aren’t being considered.
4. Comfort Stage — Communication strengthens tenuous bonds.
Child Behavior, Discipline, and Leadership
As a stepfather, you’ll have to keep in mind that you won’t able to always discipline the child like a biological father. Research has revealed that teens often behave worse for stepdads, especially if the child is a boy. The child knows that you’re not the biological guardian and may be more rebellious.
Instead of trying to dominate your stepchild, you should let the mother take the lead with discipline and offer support when you can. You’ll have to earn the right to lead by developing trust and establishing a connection with the child, and more interestingly, you don’t control your parental status with stepchildren — they do.
The mother should encourage the children to communicate and share any frustrations.
You have to be willing to put the effort in, and cultivate the relationship. A NY Times article reported that the stepfather-child relationship is the most important factor in stepfamily success, the skills to manage and cultivate the relationship? The article continued “… the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job.”
You’ll have to figure out your role, which will take time. A FamilyLife.com article highlighted the point that even if the father is deceased, you won’t replace him. You can’t be the biological father but perhaps you can fill another void.
Complicated But Worth It
In the Kids in the House video above, actor Sam Jaeger summarized the experience, saying “I think being a stepparent is the most complicated job there is.” He also admitted that he had a hard time defining his role with the child, he was supportive but admitted the early years were difficult.
He ended the video, very poetically and offered heartfelt words for future stepfathers:
“It’s about endurance, parenting is about endurance, but especially step parenting… really trying to be there for the kid, eventually, if you just show love to them, it will be returned.”
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