Blended, non-traditional families are more common than ever. Unlike the famous 1970s sitcom, where a single mom with three daughters meets a single dad with three sons and they form a family with very few hiccups, blended families and step-parenting come with challenges. Here are 5 reasons why becoming a stepdad is challenging.
#1 You’re not the ‘real’ dad.
Stepdads have heard this one tossed out in arguments repeatedly over the years. To make matters worse, kids seem to throw it out only when things are tough. They never ‘remind’ you that you’re not their biological father when you’re assembling their new bike or taking them to see their favorite movie. Still, it hurts to hear it – especially when you love them as if they’re yours, even forgetting most of the time that they aren’t. This one is a tough part of step-parenting.
#2 You’re trying to replace someone.
Kids often have confused emotions toward step parents. On one hand, you may have a wonderful, loving relationship, but they may feel conflicted about it. Some kids believe that loving their stepparent is a betrayal of their biological parent. They may see you as trying to replace their biological parent and feel guilty if they accept you into their lives. Communication is key; it’s fine to have the discussion with them about how they are lucky to have two men who love them. Kids need to feel like it’s alright to love both parents and that their love for one doesn’t take away from their love of the other.
#3 You only like my mom.
Ugh. This is another difficult issue with kids who sometimes feel like the stepdad is only interested in the relationship with their mother, and not them. This is especially true for kids of a particularly difficult divorce. They may worry about rejection and feel like they are being pushed aside for the relationship. This one takes a lot of reassuring and it’s a case where actions definitely speak louder than words. Over time, as you build a relationship with both the child and the mother, your intentions will become clearer and the anxiety about this issue will ease.
#4 You’re not the boss.
Especially regarding rules and discipline, kids will often look for ways to shirk the perception of control. They will resist your rules, saying that because you’re not their biological father, you have no standing regarding how they live their lives. Just remember that rebellion is probably rooted in the pain of the divorce. Be patient, but firm and keep communicating about your reasons for the decisions you’re making.
#5 You love your ‘real’ kids more than me.
With blended families, kids often believe that your true loyalty lies with your biological children and that you don’t love them the same. Again, this one will take time and demonstrating your love is much more effective than telling them. Being mindful of their fears will help you understand how they’re feeling and processing these relationships.
Being a stepdad isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.