Divorce is increasingly becoming a reality for many American families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, half of all marriages ended in divorce in 2009. While this can initially be a jarring lifestyle adjustment for both parents and children, eventually divorced life will become more normal and acceptable. It may not seem like it, but your children will eventually learn to split time between mom and dad while parents adjust to single life once again.
However, after a while, parents may feel the need to reenter the dating world – possibly in pursuit of a new long-term relationship. And if the relationship is a success, it may lead to a second marriage with two established families mixing into one. This likely means the addition of some very important people into your life – stepchildren.
Becoming a stepparent can be an immensely rewarding experience, but it can also be difficult. No two families are alike and stepchildren may resist the idea of a new parental figure in their lives. As a potential stepdad, approaching this situation with care and understanding can facilitate the smoothest adjustment for yourself, your spouse and the children.
Exercise patience when beginning to form a new relationship with your stepchildren. Just because their parent loves and trusts you doesn’t mean the children will immediately accept you into their world. Skeptical kids may even view you as a potential threat to their natural father.
If you already have children, you may also feel fatherly instincts and feelings developing for your stepchildren, but take care when expressing them. Begin as friends and allow your relationship to develop naturally, as children can easily tell when your interactions seem forced or rushed. Depending on the age of the little ones, this may take varying amounts of time for each sibling.
As many divorces occur due to bad feelings between exes, it’s also important to remember that your stepchildren may not share your new spouse's feelings about their father. Don’t try to become a better or replacement dad – form your own relationship with them. By showing your stepchildren that you're a respectful individual not looking to overstep your bounds, you’ll score points in the long-run towards generating a strong family bond.