As a step dad, I found some ways to help my step kids feel like they fit in to our blended family.
It was my goal to have my step kids to feel that they belong in our family, that I believe in them and that I want to see them become the person they were created to be.
Because I believe my step kids are created for greatness and I have told them that regularly, they look at me in a different way. They know that I am one of their biggest encouragers and fan of them. After years of giving them small consistent doses of encouragement, I’ve proven to them that I’m a steady rock in their lives. It didn’t happen overnight but as grown children now, they have a level of respect for me that I couldn’t have imagined possible at the beginning of our relationship. It was hard work but I am glad I did it because I now see the fruit of the hard work I put in.
A strong part of our family culture is communication. Communication comes more natural to my wife so I humbled myself and learned from her. Have you ever called a family meeting? Our kids would sometimes roll their eyes when we called a family meeting and try to find an excuse to get out of being present. Every good team has to have meetings of some sort. Our family is a team, right? We want to be on the same page, right? Most of the time there was laughter and joking during our meetings. Our meetings weren’t long and we only talked about a few subjects at a time because we knew we would lose their attention. I wish we had been organized enough to meet once a week but we simply called the meetings when we felt the need.
I believe that my family is supposed to be successful and I tell them individually that I believe in them.
There is value in meeting together as a family, and you don’t have to call it a family meeting. We tried to have an atmosphere where the kids felt comfortable speaking, we even tried a talking stick for a while and that was a source of laughter for us. Only the person holding the stick could talk, and that is a great concept until someone won’t give it up to the next person. We tried to have a good time and laugh so that our kids wanted to attend our family meetings (even though they didn’t really have a choice).
I’ve heard many excuses. “We don’t have time.” “I’m working too much.” “My kids won’t cooperate.” “My husband won’t do it.” Make some brownies and they will come, meet at a location other than your home, make it light hearted if you can. You will see value in spending time getting your family on the same page.
I believe that my family is supposed to be successful and I tell them individually that I believe in them. When my step kids talk about a class at school or their work, I build them up. Honestly, there are times I have to work hard to muster up encouraging words to speak to them. I remind myself to take the emotion out of my reaction and speak words that will help them thrive. Doing this might be a big change for you; you may not have had a lot of encouraging words spoken over you. Although my parents did not express to me that they believed in me, I knew they expected me to do well in school and achieve more than they did. They seldom vocalized their belief in me. I know that they loved me; however it would have been nice to hear what they really thought of me. They never had anyone to mentor them and encourage them so they didn’t know how to affirm me. Do you see the pattern? Because I am an encourager, my step kids speak affirming words over their half siblings. It is what they are used to seeing. You can start now by being constructive, optimistic and affirming to your step kids.
Steps to help your step child feel that you believe in them:
- Give your step child compliments.
- Speak to what their potential is, not what they are currently doing.
- Help plan for their future.
- Talk to them using edifying words and descriptions about who they are.
- Remind them not to talk negatively about themselves or others.
- Write them sticky notes as a reminder that you think they are amazing.
You cannot have big expectations while only giving of yourself partially.
It is unrealistic to expect your step children to be perfect no matter how much time you’re willing to invest. You will be setting yourself up for disappointment if you think they will desire to meet all of your goals for them. The goals are for your step child, not for you to use against them so be patient. Tell them that you appreciate that they are different from you and affirm their uniqueness. Because you feel hurt, there may be times you will want to express your disappointment. Be careful, that may not be what they need to hear. When you affirm your step child by telling them that you believe that they have what it takes to do whatever they want, they will begin to believe in themselves. Your step kids need to know that you are fully committed to seeing them become who they were created to be.
Brian Hauff has been a step father to 3 amazingly talented kids for 13 years. He and his wife, Nicole married in 2003, had 2 children together and blended their family successfully. Brian works as an architect, managing higher education construction projects, designing houses, and master planning university campuses. His greater passion is to help step families understand their true identity so that they can be a positive force of change in the world. He and his wife have been featured in the Huffington Post and they mentor one on one with step families. More encouragement for step families can be found at www.blendinggodsway.com.