Let’s take time out to acknowledge and celebrate stepfathers on Fathers Day. Over 20% of Australian children live in step or blended families, therefore, thousands of men are stepping into an ambiguous and difficult role.
Those passionate and delightful “in love” feelings couples experience in a new relationship don’t necessarily encompass your new partner’s children. And kids don’t automatically fall in love with the stranger who is their mum’s new partner. In fact, the kids may feel jealous, rejected and rebellious. So its complicated to establish a healthy stepfather and stepchild relationship.
I’ve seen stepfather’s do the hard work that leads to respectful and caring relationships with their stepchildren.
What great stepfathers do
- Accepts that the kids didn’t choose him (or his biological kids), their mum did, so he aims for caring and respectful relationships rather than expecting the children to fall in love with him (or his kids).
- Talks respectfully of the children’s father and acts politely towards him (yes even if he doesn’t agree with his parenting style). He doesn’t try and replace their father. How great for kids when their father and stepfather can be at a birthday party together.
- Sees the children as a bonus in his life and does not set out to change or fix them. He takes time getting to know them and their interests. He does not place himself in the role of rescuer, he’s not a knight on a white horse come to save the family.
- Accepts that he may sometimes be the outsider who doesn’t know the family history, the unwritten family rules, or the special jokes. He knows mum and the kids may still need time without him.
- Acts and speaks in a kind manner. He recognises how hard it is for everyone to adjust to the new family arrangement.
- Navigates the complex arrangement of who does the discipline in the household with the children’s mother. He knows that his ability to influence and teach his stepchildren will come after he has developed a caring and respectful relationship with them.
- Plays with the kids and teaches them new skills. His presence enriches their lives.
- Has bucket loads of patience. It can take years, yes years, to feel like the new family has merged together as one unit.
So on Fathers Day let’s celebrate stepfathers, the men that take on the daunting, yet also rewarding stepfather role with no instruction manual. Let’s honour the men who step in and take the place of absent fathers. Let’s thank the men that continue to build respectful and caring stepfamily relationships despite often being rejected.
Happy Fathers Day stepfathers.
I’d like to hear your great stepfather stories.
One of my good friends is the stepfather to 5 girls who he has showered with love, guidance and patience. Unfortunately his relationship with their mother broke down after it was discovered the father of the youngest two girls (from her second marriage) had abused the older two girls (from her first marriage) and the years of court proceedings and suicide attempts by the second youngest was too much to handle whilst maintaining a marriage. He is still plays a major role in all their lives and provides support to all the girls and his ex-wife to this day.
Wow, that’s quite a journey. Quietly keeping the world together.