Published: Wed 20 May 2020
Stepdads and Blended Families
The learnings in this article series are based on our research and years of experience supporting fathers and father-figures. But the fact is, everyone’s situation is different, so feel free to be creative, and adapt our wisdom to suit your circumstances.
Advice for stepdads and blended families on staying connected
It is important to remember that the stepdad journey should not be rushed, it needs time to develop and flourish.
Contents of this article
- How to get to know your stepchildren
- Importance of taking things slowly
- Tips on how to build trust
- Importance of spending time together
- Tuning in to what is going on
- Beware of overdoing things
We recently spoke with Lachlan Gillespie from the Wiggles about becoming a stepdad.
Tip 1: How to get to know your stepchildren
- If you can, begin to get to know your stepchildren before you live together.
- Even if you have to delay moving in together, it is better to break down some of the barriers and get to know each other, rather than rush the process.
- Ask your partner about your stepchildren’s particular needs, likes and dislikes.
- If possible – go on a ‘Dad Date’ one on one. This to shows your step kids that you value getting to know them and their personality.
“To start with you must be willing, to enter the child’s life as the ‘outsider’ and be prepared to slowly find acceptance, at the child is ready. Until then, you must try to find ways to work within their life as it is.” Stepdad advice.
Tip 2: Importance of taking things slowly
- Take things at a pace that suits your stepchildren. For older kids, keep an open dialogue about the family change and give them an opportunity to express how things are going from their perspective.
- Don’t expect to instantly ‘love’ your stepchildren, and don’t expect them to love you. In the early days don’t be disheartened if things don’t immediately ‘click’ – settle for respect.
Tip 3: How to build trust
- In all cases, a good place to start is showing support for your stepchildren and understanding of their situation in this process.
- Be aware that the children may be still experiencing a sense of loss with break-down of their family unit as it was before.
- Build trust by being reliable and honest.
- Ask for their thoughts and perspective on how things are going.
- Involve them in family discussions and decisions (even small things like what to have for dinner, or where to go on the weekend).
Tip 4: Importance of spending time together
- One-on-one time will deepen the trust and emotional bond in your relationship.
- Find time to be with your stepchild doing something that they choose.
- Go on a ‘Kids Date’ one on one, to show them that you value getting to know them and their personality.
- If a child is not welcoming of your presence, join their life at a distance step by step.
- Be reliable and dependable. If you say you are going to be there make sure you are.
- As your relationship grows, you can spend one-on-one time with the child, and enjoy special moments together.
Tip 5: How to listen and tune in
- Make an effort to tune-in to what is important to your stepchildren.
- Be sure to listen to their ideas and thoughts, take them on board and try them out - this helps kids to know and feel they are valued and respected.
- Ask them about their interests and the hobbies, occasions, relationships, and other aspects of their life that are most important to them.
- Offer support and listen to them if they open-up to you.
- Finding ‘special’ moments in your stepkids’ lives to celebrate will help them see that you are invested in their wellbeing and happiness.
Tip 6: Beware of overdoing treats and gifts
- Be careful of overusing treats, gifts, or special trips in an attempt to ‘bond’.
- Overuse of spending in this way is likely to focus your relationship with your stepchildren on how much you spend or give, instead of on understanding and appreciating each other as people and family.
- Take a real interest and be there to support them in their school, hobbies, interests, and challenges.
- Let them get to know you by sharing things about yourself; your interests, sports, hobbies, or things you like to do. Find things you may have in common and work from there.