Becoming a stepfather can be one of the most challenging roles a man can undertake, but the process is often easier when you takes time to think about your changing position well before you assumes your new role in full. It’s often a good idea to set aside some time to bond with your new stepchildren, and to give them opportunities to see that you act the way you promise you will. This will let them know that you’re going to be there for them for the long-term and is an important way for you to start gaining their trust. You’ll need to set boundaries early on, but you should also be prepared for some tension. Kids may not be enthusiastic about their mother’s new relationship and it’s not uncommon for them to act inappropriately for a while. Try not to take this personally. Be as generous as you can with your love, even in difficult times, and chances are things will even out as the months and years go by.
It is very rare for a new male figure in a child’s life to simply assume the father figure role without any problems, but things are usually a lot easier when the child trusts you. To begin with, the relationship between yourself and the child’s mother should be a committed one, and you should take steps to be sure all children involved understand that you are not going to be going away or leaving them. Children can become attached to individuals very quickly and can be easily be hurt if the relationship ends, particularly if they’ve felt abandoned by male authority figures before.
It’s often the case that an incoming man can be seen as in intruder, at least at first. It can take a lot of time to gain a child's trust, and how you treat the child's mother will go a long way towards how the child perceives your character. A stepfather is a newcomer in the house and can be seen by the child as diverting the mother's attention. Involving the mom is also an important part of this equation. Once the child is aware that he or she is still receiving love attention from his or her mother, it may be easier for you to gain acceptance.
It’s also important to set appropriate boundaries for you and the children’s natural parents from the start. You should be aware of how significant your role is going to be with the children. If the biological father is also in their life, you should expect to be under this man’s strict scrutiny, and depending on his nature you may also need to anticipate negativity from him. As a new parental figure, you may be looking after his child for a significant amount of time, and it is only natural that the he should be concerned about the arrangement in the beginning.
A new stepfather should never try to compete with the biological father for the child's affections. If you can, it’s often a good idea for you, the biological father, and the mother to sit down together for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the roles everyone will play, and to get a sense of where each of you is coming from. If everyone follows acceptable boundaries and commits to respecting the others, the child will likely have more respect for everyone involved. This is especially true if the child is an adolescent. Trying to win favoritism will not be productive, as children are generally very intuitive about sniffing out lies and insincerity.
Prepare for Tension
Being realistic about the challenges ahead is also really important to success. Children frequently have temper tantrums, mood swings, and are prone to taking out their anger on newcomers into the family. These sorts of behaviors tend to be most acute in times of transition or change, and can be more intense the younger and more immature the child is. If you go into the relationship expecting a bit of this as a natural consequence you are likely to adjust much faster.
Family counselors often recommend that people in these sorts of situations try to make a conscious effort to separate the what the child says and does from what he or she is probably trying to express. It’s natural for a stepchild to tell you hurtful things, but if you can distinguish his emotions about the change from his emotions about you, you’ll probably realize that he’s acting out because of what’s happening to his life. You are a big part of these changes, of course, but his aggression is usually misplaced when it’s put on a parent or other authority figure.
Be Generous With Love
No matter how stressful things get, experts usually recommend that you make an extra effort to be loving and inclusive. Stepchildren are usually highly aware that they are not your natural children and may feel like this brands them as less worthy of love and acceptance. Do all you can to counter this notion. If you have your own biological children, try to integrate the stepchildren into the family and show them special attention. This can be a time when the children can see that there is no favoritism and each child is as important as the next.