Blended families have become more and more the norm. With that, many men take on the mantle of “stepfather” merely by saying “I do”—a daunting task if you have your own children, even more so if it means becoming an instant parent. While there’s an initial honeymoon period for blended families, there are traps new stepfathers can avoid to keep the family that is blended, splendid.
“I was 40 when I first got married. I had a pretty close relationship with my six nieces and nephews and got on extremely well with my now wife’s two kids, but getting married was a whole new ballgame,” said Joe D’Eramo, author of 25 Ways to go from Stepfather to StepDad. “What stepfathers have to realize is as big of a transition as this is for them, it’s bigger for the kids. So, you have to tread gently and avoid some common traps.”
According to D’Eramo, stepfathers can make the transition smoother by following a few basic guidelines in their approach. Those include:
- Get over yourself – It’s human nature for stepfathers to think “I took on the raising of somebody else’s kids” and that some sort of congratulations is in order. Get over yourself. You can’t raise children thinking they owe you a debt of gratitude for marrying their mother.
- Overcompensating – It’s really not your job to make up for the shortcomings of the biological father and be “Super Dad”. You are a co-parent and have a very important role. Do what you do and don’t worry about what you think your children’s biological father should be doing.
- Follow your wife’s lead on house rules – There’s enough change when a stepfather moves in. Don’t try to reinvent the rules of the house right away. If the kids go to bed at 8, then they continue to go to bed at 8. Children of divorce have enough difficulty following the rules at two homes if they visit their biological father. Don’t make them learn two sets of rules at home. Think of your wife as the CEO of rules as they apply to the children and you are her closest and trusted advisor.
- Bad mouthing their father – It should go without saying, but many stepfathers fall into the trap of badmouthing and complaining about the biological father in front of the kids. Just don’t do it. While more than a few fathers drop the ball, you only tarnish how they view you by saying bad things about their father.
- Do not allow the children to disrespect their father – Conversely, it’s not uncommon for your stepchildren to want to vent about their father. You can let them up to a certain degree. If it becomes disrespectful, jump in and put a stop to it. Again, they may be justified in their complaints but you still want your children to respect all grownups. Let them vent until it crosses a line.
- Be a parent not a pal – Perhaps the biggest mistake a stepfather can make is trying to be a buddy instead of a parent. Letting them stay up late, playing video games, letting them eat junk food and other things of that ilk may earn you a pall for the night. It won’t help when you’re trying to get them to take out the trash or do their homework. Children of divorce may not like it, but they crave structure. That’s something a parent does, not a buddy. Remember, they won’t say it, but they are counting on you for that structure.
Plymouth, Mass.-resident and step-parent of two Joe D’Eramo recently published a new e-book, 25 Ways to go from Stepfather to StepDad, to offers some helpful suggestions for soon-to-be or newly married men who are becoming husbands and fathers for the first time.
“When it comes to parenting, there really are no experts and all we have to go on is our experiences,” said D’Eramo, “What stepfathers need to remember that you, your wife and your stepchildren are all in this thing together. None of you have done it before. So don’t be afraid to talk as a family and ask for help. It’s amazing how many of those conversations have kept situations from escalating and further developed the relationships in the family.”
25 Ways to go from Stepfather to StepDad sells for $9.95 on Amazon as a Kindle book (Kindle also offers a free app that enables customers to read e-books on their PC). You can read more about the book and tips for stepfathers on the 25 Ways to go from Stepfather to StepDad Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/mystepdad.
About HiRoad Communications:
Based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, HiRoad Communications is owned by freelance copywriter Joe D’Eramo. HiRoad generates copy for web content, marketing communications materials, PR pieces, articles, blogs, social media sites and more. For more information, visit www.hiroadcommunications.com or call 617-848-0848.