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6 Tips for Struggling Stepdads
Raising teenage stepchildren is not for the faint of heart. The teenage stage of “it’s all about me” and the male ego is a highly toxic cocktail for any family to consume. The dagger phrase “you are not my real daddy” can be a blow to any man’s esteem and pride.
If you are serious, patient and intentional, you can make it work. You can enjoy the ride as well. Here are some tips to help:
- Love & Respect their mother. She is often the most constant participant in their life. Loving and respecting her is loving and respecting their heart.
- Become a student of their history—and present. What is their past and current relationship with their biological father? What is the level of their love and trust with him? What experiences did they witness between their mother and biological father—if he was ever in the picture? This will give you clues to their emotional landmines and needs.
- Create an environment that respects their individuality and growing pains. Read books and talk with experts and friends to learn about the teenage developmental phase. You want to co—create an environment with their mother that nourishes their growth and development towards their unique identity. Be there to listen and help them search for answers.
- Set behavioral boundaries. Much of life is about decisions and consequences. And with more freedom comes more responsibilities—and stiffer consequences for wrong decisions. You want to minimize the tough lessons and consequences they experience outside of the home.
- Check your ego. It’s not about showing that “you are the man of the house”. Be the man and they will know it.
- Respect the role of the biological father. If the biological father is in the picture, seek to work as a team with him. It will be important to respect each other in front of the kids—even if no genuine respect exist. Do what is in the best interest of the emotional and social well-being of the children.
You can do it and enjoy it. Again, serious effort, patience and intentional action—and non-action at times—is the key. The overall goal is the development of a healthy adult who becomes a productive member of society. One day you will hear these words “thanks for always being there—Daddy.” It’s gonna be worth it.
Ron J. Clark, MBA, MA is an expert on effective programs targeting fathers, fatherless males, and young unwed parents. He’s published dozens of articles on fatherhood and previously served as Director of Virginia Governor’s Fatherhood Campaign under the State Department of Health.
Father and teenage son standing outdoors — Image by © Ocean/Corbis