Be a Good Stepfather

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Being a stepfather (or stepmother) can be fulfilling and challenging. If you marry a person with children, you have to consider them part of a package deal, to be loved, nutured, and protected to the best of your ability.

Steps

  1. Keep your negative opinions of the child's biological father to yourself unless you are asked directly, and be circumspect when this occasion happens if there is a risk of an emotional overflow.
  2. Never argue with the child's mother in front of the child, and be especially careful about making derogatory remarks about her where the child may hear.
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  3. Be a good example to your stepchild. Smoking, excessive drinking, and drugs have no place in a home with children in it. This may not be the politically correct position, but from the effects of second hand smoke on young lungs, to the acceptance of illegal drugs, these are not good behaviors to model for children.
  4. Respect the child's mother's disciplinary and homework regimens, and if you think they may be out of line, talk to her privately about your concerns, not in front of the child.
  5. Respect the child's private space. Any child, from preteen through their teen years deserve a reasonable amount of privacy and private space, and unless there is serious concern about the child's behavior or activity, the more space they are given, the more trusted they will feel.
  6. Spend time with the stepchild in their activities. Helping with school work, projects, and attending sporting events or clubs like scouting they are involved with will show them you are willing to support their efforts.
  7. Balance the time and gifts you give your own children with the stepchild. They are a part of your family, not to be treated like second class citizens or outcasts.
  8. Invite the child to participate in your own activities. If you fish, golf, or do other hobby activities where it is appropriate, take your stepchild along. Not only does this give them a chance to see what you enjoy, but it gives their mother a break.
  9. Show the child you are willing to help out in housework. In this age with so many mothers working to support or help in supporting the family, it is important for children to understand that keeping a household is a family job, not just the mother's.
  10. Discuss decisions which effect your stepchild with his or her mother. Don't sign them up for a summer at a military academy or sports camp without talking it over with her. Don't buy them firearms...or fireworks, even seemingly harmless ones like paintball guns or bb guns without her knowledge and consent.
  11. Talk about computer games, video games, and other cultural influences with their mother. Social pressure will often press on Mom to let them do it, whatever "it" is, because everyone else is doing "it". Each family should have its own standards and ethical codes to live by. The child's mother needs your support and input on deciding whether to let the child have violent or graphic video games in the home, or allowing them to go to "R" rated movies with their friends.
  12. Help plan the future of the children. It may fall on you to begin a savings plan for college expenses, the first car, and helping to find that first job.
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  13. Remember, being a stepdad is a leadership role as part of a team. Accept the unique qualities of each team member, the limitations, even the eccentricities. There will be good times, even great times, but there will be conflict, disagreements, and letdowns. Patience, love, and a sympathetic view should help you through these challenges. You are the adult, no matter what the situation, you should remember that, and that problems may seem huge, but often will be forgotten in tomorrows rush, or laughed about next year.
  14. Be patient when waiting for your new stepchild to respond to your caring, affection, and love. Often, the child is deeply wounded by circumstances involving their biological father, and building a new relationship is threatening to them.
  15. Watch how your step child interacts with your own children if you have any. Jealousy is toxic to any relationship. If this appears to be occurring, try to head it off immediately. To maintain a happy family atmosphere, step-sibling anger must be dealt with fairly and prudently.
  16. Be yourself. It is almost impossible to set up pretence of doing, being, enjoying, or acting in ways that are not YOU. You may impress your step child for a while, but the real you will emerge sooner or later.
  17. Never treat your step child like he or she is not worthy of your time or affection just because they are not your biological child.
  18. Never make your step child feel like you don’t care or like them, or that they are in the way or your relationship with their mother.
  19. You should spend time with your step child and teach them to become a responsible adult.
  20. You should never let the only interaction you have with your step child that day be yelling and screaming. You should always try to focus on the positive things they do and not always the things they are doing wrong.
  21. You should understand that your spouse is a mother and can not always be free to spend alone time with you. There will be times when she will have to help the child or spend time with the child when you would really like her to be spending time with you.
  22. You have to remember that you chose to enter into a relationship with a woman with children, so you ultimately chose to be a role model and a parental figure to her child or children.
  23. Before you marry, prepare yourself for the emotional toll that being a stepdad will require. "You're not my REAL dad," is indeed something you may hear, and you may not receive any backup from your wife.
  24. You should never put your spouse in the spot to have to choose between you or her child/children. She will always choose her child.
  25. Spend one on one time with you step child/children. That will allow you to develop a good relationship with that child and get to know them. It will also show the child that you care enough about them to spend alone time with them.
  26. For children under about ten years old, an especially beneficial opportunity for both of you is to play learning games. Set up creative reward-based games in line with or in advance of class curriculum. Involve your spouse once you have the ball rolling. Try to make activities of this type a fairly regular event--a time that your stepchild can expect to spend with you while mom or dad is away.
  27. It is a good idea to keep a good rapport with your stepchild's biological father, except in cases where he is not welcome in your stepchild's life. A large proportion of stepfathers are good friends with the biological fathers of their stepchildren--both men are acting in the best interest of the child and collaborate. If both men are reasonable, impasses are uncommon.
  28. Don't complain about every single thing they do. Remember that it’s not easy for them to move into a new environment and to automatically live to respect you

Tips

  • Do not let the idea of wanting to be a "best friend" cloud your judgment. If a child wants to do something dangerous or that their Mother disapproves of, they may try to enlist you as an advocate for them, and this puts you at odds with their Mother, your wife.

Warnings

  • Becoming a stepfather puts you in a position of responsibility for protecting the child from a host of dangers. Be aware of the risks which the child faces and be on the lookout for dangers around the home. Small children suffer from terrible harm every day because of carelessness.

Things You'll Need

  • Patience.
  • Understanding.
  • A good sense of humor.


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Books for Stepfathers

Keys to Successful Stepfathering

Smart Stepdad, The: Steps to Help You Succeed

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