One of the biggest obstacles I faced as a new stepdad was trying to figure out the best ways to connect with the kids in a way that didn’t feel evasive or uncomfortable to them.
Of course, I had the full support of their mother, but it wasn’t like she had a “how-to guide” that I could just pick up, read, and then apply.
If I was going to be successful, I had to roll up my sleeves and put in the work that is not only required but demanded in the eyes of my new family.
So I sat down, opened up my computer, and googled “Successful Stepdad Methods.” Why? Well, because I thought I could find quick answers to all my questions. I thought I could speed up the process and get to my end goal with less effort.
Man, was I wrong on so many levels!
I know, I can go YouTube and find videos of stepdads that already went down this road and had the “blueprint” to success. Again, I found myself desperately searching for answers and guidance only to come up empty. What was I going to do?
So, like any stepdad, I decided to try and make a connection with the kids by expressing interest in their daily lives. I wanted to be the “cool” parent in the house, so when they asked for something my answers we almost always yes. Boy, did that one come back and kick me in the butt. After months and months of this method, I found myself no closer to their trust than I was on day one.
I needed to try something totally different. So I decided to switch from the “yes” parent to the “no” parent who cared more about chores and respect and less about their feelings. That idea only drove the kids further away from me and caused more fights and disrespect than anything else.
I was lost.
I was upset.
I was confused and this led to me drinking almost every day to escape my worries. I began to distance myself from the family and convince myself that I would always be the “other guy” in the house, and never a real parent the kids could one day love.
“I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong” was a common phrase I would say to my wife when we would sit down and talk about the family. My wife wanted to help me in any way she could, and she supported me wholeheartedly. But if I was going to succeed, I needed to try a different approach.
It was my responsibility to keep going because I made a commitment to my wife and kids at the wedding that I would always be there for them. Then, one day when my son and I were outside shooting hoops, I asked him a question that changed my life and helped get me back on track towards my ultimate goal of being the stepdad I knew I could be.
“Son, how do you know that I love you?” His answer was so simple and honest that I smile when I think about it to this day. “Dad”, he said, “because you always show up.”
Later that night I made a conscious decision to be there for the kids, and not just say it to them, but to physically be there and show up to everything that mattered to them the most.
And honestly, that is where you begin to build trust in any relationship you have in your life. You will always show up for the people you care about the most no matter where they are or what they are doing.
So over the next few years, I did just that. (Yes, years because it takes time.) Whenever the kids were doing something that mattered to them I would be there to show my support, which eventually turned into trust, and then to love. I know that most stepparents will read this and disagree. And that is ok.
My advice to them is to stop overthinking and start believing that the answers they seek are not always found in complicated places.
In the end, I didn’t need a book or video to help me achieve absolute success as a stepdad.
I only needed to do the one thing that will always matter the most, to show up.
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Featured Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema