Throughout the media, stepfathers have been portrayed as abusive and non-caring. Stepfathers often complain people assume this stereotype and automatically view the relationship as a disaster waiting to happen.
To avoid the stereotype, here are some suggestions:
1. Keep your expectations in check. Unrealistic expectations will only feed your frustration. Instead, keep your focus on patience and open communication.
2. Don’t expect “love at first sight” reactions from your new stepchildren. If it is hard for you to discern your new place in a family, imagine what it is like for the children. Loyalty conflicts arise within them between their biological parents and you so it is important to be careful in the way you address their biological father. Understand that it can take up to two years (or more) for the children to accept the relationship.
3. Don’t start out as the disciplinarian. Your biggest challenge as a stepfather might be forcing yourself to step back from the disciplinarian role and letting your wife, their biological mother, have control. As hard as that can be, it is important to a healthy relationship with your stepchildren. Keep your focus on building a friendship and mutual respect with them first. Until that foundational respect is present, let your wife discipline the kids. Present a united front with your spouse to the children so they know the rules were set by both parties.
A great deal of time and patience are needed for stepfathers. Children learn to respect persistence over time and what an opportunity you have to step into a new family. Take it one day at a time and focus on loving and supporting your spouse. Insist on respect and above all keep your sense of humor! As with every new adventure there are bumps along the way. Hold on tight and enjoy the ride because the journey you take together will be worthwhile.