Becoming part of a family as an outsider is always a challenge but there are ways to make it easier. Men so often want to go barreling in and take charge. In some situations this works but not so much when you are talking about a family situation.
Maintain a Balance
At the same time, there is a balance that needs to be maintained so you are not seen as a pushover. It can be a bit of a high wire balancing act.
Something that makes it much easier is spending more time as a family before officially becoming a member.
When you make the decision to join together with your partner in a marriage where there are children you then need to woo the children as well.
Not bending over backwards, just really being you is the key.
After all, they need to know who you really are. There should be no big surprises after you join the family, this does not do anyone any good.
Commit to Making it Work for Everyone
Letting them know by your attitude and behavior you really want to make this work is important and not just with their mother.
Let the children know you want to build a relationship with them each individually, not taking the place of their father (depending on the situation) but just a relationship with you as a person.
Treat your stepchildren as individuals and not as children; seen and not heard. It is important you build mutual respect for each other. It’s a two way street where you both are treated with respect.
I believe the world would be a much better and easier place to live in if we all treated each other with the respect we felt we deserved. In any situation if someone comes in, whether in a work situation or a personal one, and just demands to fit in – they are not well received. But if they come in and genuinely want to become a part of something bigger than themselves they are much more readily received.
This goes for a family as well. Just as in a working situation the outsider is sometimes looked on as a threat to the security of the current situation. They are perhaps seen as someone who is trying to take over some of the already established territory and usurp authority.
If the person coming in is wise they will come in with a non-threatening stance and true humility, succumbing to the set in place routine until they build relationships and let the others know their intentions are pure. Not only that but they prove they are worthy of the position.
This works the exact same way in a family situation and if someone truly wants to become an actively loved and received part of a family they will adhere to the same guidelines. So many times an adult male coming into a family situation with children comes into it with an attitude of superiority and wants to seize immediate control which rarely, if ever, works out.
Children are People Too
Children should be looked on as people with feelings; much as we want them to see us as adults. Not people that take advantage of us or try to get the upper hand but people that are equal in their need for respect and admiration.
When stepdads approach their new families with the right intentions and treat them with respect things have a better chance of working out. Sometimes, especially if there are male children, this can take time and can still possibly fail. But at the very least you can come to some understanding with the children their mother is still their mother even though she is now your wife.
For your part you can assure them you are not trying to take over or take their mother from them or their position in the home. This is especially true when it comes to teenagers. This approach will keep the antagonistic feelings down to a minimum and over time perhaps they will learn to respect you as you hold your ground in loving maturity.
Time will prove to them as they watch the way you treat their mother and show them respect. Give them encouragement you are not against them or that you have come to take over as a dictator. Children are so often already unsure and insecure from losing the presence of one parent in the home.
Or they are not used to having two parents from the beginning and they are very leery and afraid of being hurt even more all over again. Change is a very hard thing for most adults so you need to consider the children’s feelings especially at their level of maturity.
Spend Time With Everyone
Spend time with the family beforehand and if you are already in the family spend time watching each child, as you did your spouse, to find out what makes them tick and what pleases them.
In studying them you can more easily find ways to connect with them on a deeper level.
If you can stay patient and steady in your mission to become a real and solid family unit and not to just exist as separate entities living in one house you will prevail.
So many times we as a society are driven by seeking immediate gratification on all levels. We do not want to work towards a goal but we want a goal handed to us. We lack the patience to persist and instead when things do not work out we quit and go after something that is easy.
Relationships are not easy but good relationships are rewarding if we are willing to be patient and work towards creating stronger and deeper bonds.
Sometimes being a stepdad can be much more rewarding than you ever thought it could be if you are willing to go the distance. It could be that the stepdad is the glue that binds the family even closer than ever before.
Rachael Cherry is a wife, mother and writer who is passionate about helping connect families in need with high quality caregivers. She’s taken that passion and put it to work through NannyPro, a respected online nanny referral service. Learn more by visiting @NannyPro on Twitter.