As a stepdad, I found some ways to help my step kids feel like they fit into our blended family.
Being a stepdad to 3 great kids motivated me to show them 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.
When I married my wife, I married a family. My step kids were young when I married their mom, but I could see that they had great potential. Because I could see their potential, I knew that everything I did and said could have a good or bad imprint on their lives.
When our kids are taught to think about their choices and the consequences of their choices, they will come to own the outcome. Typically when an adult makes a decision, they think it through first. We count the cost and the potential consequences. Kids need to be walked through the process of decision making. If we don’t walk through decision making with them when they are younger, then we don’t have a right to be mad at their silly decisions. Sometimes it’s the step parent that can ask questions the parent can’t ask. Whoever it is, stepparent or parent, someone needs to show the children that you believe they are capable of making great decisions. Even elementary age children are capable of gaining the type of wisdom it takes to make important decisions. As a step parent, I have been able to guide but not force my children to be responsible adults. They gained more courage and in time fewer peer-pressured mistakes.
When a stepparent is willing to fight for the stepchild, it builds confidence and makes the family stronger.
Parents need to know what is going on in their children’s lives. When a stepparent is willing to fight for the stepchild, it builds confidence and makes the family stronger. Fighting the biological parent is not what I am talking about. My step kids had situations at school that I had to step in and be the one to say, “This is not ok for my child.” My words and actions gave my step kids more confidence in me. Most of the time, their mom was the one who had to deal with situations that needed to be dealt with. The kids needed to know I was on their side. Beyond an awareness of what my step kids were thinking in their teen years, I found concrete ways to help them anticipate some of the dangers and temptations they would face and understand they had to own those choices.
My family makes lists for everything, it’s what helps us keep our life straight and accomplish more. There were many times when we made a pro/con list for a decision my step children were trying to make. Ultimately, I left the decision with them and they had to own the consequence as well. I am more successful when I listen more and instruct less. I am the step parent and I fully know that their mom can say things that I cannot say; I learned the hard way.
When my step kids were teenagers, I saw the importance of listening. They often came into our bedroom to talk late at night. I was tired and I didn’t necessarily want to have my room invaded late at night by a talkative teen, but I let it happen. I am glad I did. Those late night talks have led our family into a trusting relationship. Teens will talk about things late at night that they will not talk about during the day. They will listen to direction more intently when they are alone, and sometimes the only time they can get alone is late at night or a car drive.
Parents or stepparents can’t control their children’s outcome, but we have control over how we guide them. Kids don’t always choose what we want, but we can still be supportive and kind. They will be more creative, self-determined and responsible if we lead them to believe that they are. Our influence and words are powerful in their life. The people that we surround ourselves with and allow in our children’s lives have an impact we will not see immediately but will none the less have an effect on our family. If your stepchild has suffered disappointment, you might be the one person who can help them heal from that. They want to feel accepted unconditionally.
Steps to help your stepchild know that they are going to blossom into greatness:
- Speak about their future positively.
- Don’t give up on them.
- Fight for them when no one else will.
- Be their biggest cheerleader (Dads can cheer too!).
- Set goals with them.
Bring them around successful people. I’m grateful that my wife has encouraged me to be active in the life of my stepchildren. I have traveled alone with my boys after they graduated from high school, taking a train to Washington DC and exploring the museums. I’ve taken an overnight bicycle ride with one of my boys when it seemed like he needed some extra time with a male figure. My stepdaughter and I connect on an intellectual level and we have long talks about successful people, books, politics and anything that is interesting to her. We had family game nights, family movie nights; if there was anything that could bring our busy lives together, we tried it. I invest in my family because they are worth investing in. Your family is worth investing in too. Don’t leave it up to the biological parent to do all the hard work, be a team.
Brian Hauff has been a stepfather 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 stepfamilies understand their true identity so that they can be a positive force for change in the world. He and his wife have been featured in the Huffington Post and they mentor one on one with stepfamilies. More encouragement for stepfamilies can be found at www.blendinggodsway.com.