Stepdad, hmmm, does that mean that you are available to be stepped on or walked over? No, you are not a stepped on dad. You are an important part of your children's and step children's lives, even if they don't always respect you or your position as the dad in this house.
You will never be their stepkids' birth parent and you never will be. Even if the other parent is deceased the children may refer to him as "my real dad." That is okay. That is reality. But it is also reality that you are not necessarily worthless or inferior to the birth parent. You are each unique and provide different aspects to parenting.
Dad of This House
Most stepparents want more than respect. We hold the dream that we will also be loved and honored by them as we hope we can build a new family unit. Many therapists tell me that young children are very black and white and cannot deal in abstract thinking.
What this means is that when children begin to transfer affection to a step parent, they feel guilty and disloyal to the birth parent. They need to be told that it is okay to love many people and that it is good to have a number of adults who care and support them.
Don't Expect Instant Love
You may feel irritated or resentful of your stepchildren. You don't have to automatically love them, but you do have to act in a loving and respectful way towards them and their mother.
As you give and demand respect and kindness, you will create a shared life filled with memories. Love and affection take time to grow in any relationship. Many times, just looking at what the child might be feeling and having an honest and open communication will pave the road for a mutually respectful relationship.
Step dad or stepped on dad? How about being a part of the village it takes to raise a child. We are all in this together.
Judy is a parent educator, family relationship coach, and personal historian who has written more than 20 books, hundreds of articles and speaks internationally on family issues, including end of life. Formerly a PBS-Ready to learn consultant, she still works with Head Start organizations and child care resource centers on an international basis.
Submitted by: Judy H. Wright *
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