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Ask Yourself

* Is living in a Blended Family or a Stepfamily “more than you bargained for?”

* Does step parenting feel like the most challenging and thankless job of all?

* Is the tension and conflict taking its toll on your relationships

* Are you becoming worried about your children and their well-being?

* Are you constantly arguing with your partner about the kids, discipline and parenting in general?

• Is your ex or your partner's ex causing real problems in your blended family and in your relationship

• Are you at the end of your rope and need some answers NOW

* Are you considering entering into a Blended Family or Stepfamily and want to be prepared?

Step Fathers

2008-10-03

Step Institute

For most families, Father’s Day, much like Mother’s Day is no longer a simple day of celebration, in honor of that one special person at the centre of his/her family. Just as the family of the 21C has evolved into a myriad of configurations and relationships, men and women have taken on the roles and titles of stepmother and stepfather respectively, in greater numbers than ever before. With a divorce rate between 40-50% (depending on where you live) a remarriage or re-coupling rate at 75% and a 66% breakdown rate for new unions involving children (step families or blended families) the majority of families are no longer intact biological families (one mother and one father) but some variation on a stepfamily with multiple partners or spouses and parents involved in the raising of today’s children. Could a simple little “hallmark holiday” be any more confusing and where do I begin to look for a card for my “step-grandfather?”

This simple little holiday could remain as such, if we simply choose to remain in denial about how families have evolved in the past quarter century. And perhaps this would be best, as denial serves the all important purpose of helping us to avoid the realities of life, which if we acknowledge, we might actually have to do something about. For example, if we acknowledge the pervasiveness of this issue, the fact that there will soon be more of us living in step families or blended families rather than nuclear families, and that our chances of making a success of our new families is less than 1 in 3, then we might begin to question why there aren’t more societal supports in place to help families succeed in giving children stable, healthy environments in which to grow up. It probably is best to stay in denial, at least that way we don’t have to admit the extent to which we’re failing ourselves and our children, and the lengths to which we’ll go to to keep this a secret.

But enough gloom and doom and truth. The theme for today is Fathers. And in an effort to keep it simple, let’s just say that fathers come in different packages. (1.) Biological fathers raising their own children in an intact home; they are the easiest to understand and yet in the minority. (2.) Fathers who do have their own children, but are not living with them full-time and on a continuum, may see them anywhere from “not at all” to “regularly and often.” (3) Fathers who are widowers, raising their own children by themselves, or with the help of their current partner who may or may not have their own children to add to the mix. (4.) And an increasing number of fathers who have their own biological children whom they don’t live with; these fathers are living with a new partner and quite often the new partner also has children. This last group of fathers find themselves in the very challenging role of being stepfather to someone else’s children full-time, while only seeing their own children at designated times, or perhaps not at all. And finally, (5.) Stepfathers who don’t have any children of their own, but have chosen to take on the responsibilities of someone else’s children, either full or part-time, making them a symbolic father to their stepchildren. Did I say we’d keep it simple? I’m starting to realize this simply isn’t possible.

More recently, stepmothers have been the hot topic of discussion, and I applaud this development. As a stepmother myself, I’m thrilled that the challenges and struggles of the role are being brought out into the light, and that the stereotypes of the “wicked stepmother” are being challenged. Only when we begin to get honest about the dynamics of “living in step” can we begin to address the unresolved issues and move past the pain and conflict to create “new families” that work together to meet each other’s needs. But being honest and real unmasks the hurt and the pain, the disappointment and resentment so characteristic of stepfamilies, so we’ve chosen for a long time not to talk about it. This is beginning to change, and not a moment too soon. Once we get honest, we can begin to be hopeful about the future of our 21st Century families.

Its now time to turn our attention back to the role of fathers and stepfathers in the context of our new families, and to acknowledge the challenges they face in their new and multiple roles. The challenges for fathers and stepfathers are very different from the challenges that confront mothers and stepmothers. While step dynamics affect both, and as parents we all have similar responsibilities towards our children, our styles of response tend to differ, and it is important to at least acknowledge the different styles, and positions within the family.

As a man, you may be a father, a stepfather, or both, or even on the verge of becoming any one of the above. One thing is for certain, the roles and responsibilities of Fathers and Stepfathers are very different from each other and both need to be respected and honored for their differences. It’s quite likely that you may find yourself in either or both positions throughout the course of your life. And just as the roles are fraught with complexity and challenges they also hold tremendous promise and possibilities should you embrace them with optimism, commitment, patience and hard work. A little advice can go a long way, and hopefully it will. Let’s just begin by saying that, both roles are unique and need to be approached with different sets of rules and expectations. Then and only then, can you succeed in fulfilling them and making lasting contributions to your children and stepchildren.

A Few Tips for Fathers of Divorce or Separation

“Dads, let this Father’s Day be a reminder to you that even though you may not see the kids as often, that you are still their teacher, their guide and their one and only father. Honor your role as you continue to lead your children to be strong in character, in self-confidence and in self worth.”

* Continue to Father: You must continue to teach and guide – even if your time with your child is too short.
* Exact Good Manners: Fathers are teachers of the rules of the game, sportsmanship, respect for others, self-discipline and persistence.
* Respect: Teach your children to respect themselves and others, specifically, you, their mother, and your new partner
* Structure and Establish Positive Rules: Establish the “Rules of Your House” and if you’re with a new partner, do this together; then communicate these clearly to your children.
* Honor your Partner’s Point of View: Your partner’s perspective may be very different, but it needs to be honored.
* Don’t overindulge: No time to discipline? Beware of becoming a fly-me, buy-me dad; A “Disneyland Dad.” You are in good company. Most dads whose children visit are tempted just to be a “Pal Dad”. Know that kids need fathering and provide it.
* Be Informed: If there are difficulties, and there usually are, give yourself the gift of information.
* Do not Badmouth your Ex: This simply cannot be stressed enough. Teach your children to respect both points of view and let them know that taking sides only hurts them. Never put them in the position of having to take sides, and never talk badly about your ex-spouse as the children are part of her and this will do irrevocable damage to them.
* Co-Parent: Remember, there are NO ex-parents, only ex-spouses; Co-parenting with your spouse in a respectful way is absolutely necessary. The child’s self-love is dependent on holding each parent in respect. Too often divorced parents seem to forget this.
* What about the Stepfather: He is the male leader in his home, the mother’s home. Together they are male and female head of their household, just as the father and stepmother are in dad’s house. Respect and honor him in his role.
* And finally,…Have a Happy Father’s Day. Just do it!

A Few Tips for Stepfathers on Father’s Day

“For Father’s Day, consider the role of the Stepfather. Mothers with new partners, make this day special for your husbands. Stepfathers, remember the Ten steps to Stepfathering and have a GREAT Father’s Day.”

* The Stepfather Can’t Function as Does the Biological Father: He is not the father and never will be. The stepfather is the male head of the household. Together with his new wife, the children’s mother, he can be a guide, mentor, and even a psychological father to the stepchildren, over time. Go Slow.
* Structuring the Household is a Shared Task between Partners: How is the time, energy, and money used? What are the duties, responsibilities, and contributions of each member of the household? This must be sorted out and decided by the couple.
* The Norms and Forms of Discipline Must be Discussed and Agreed to by the Couple: Generally, the biological parent does the disciplining and the stepparent reminds children that “In this house we….”
* Don’t over discipline Your Stepchildren: Watch it!
* “Under-disciplining Your Own Children”: Watch it! The biological father without custody misses his kids and fears the loss of affection and his personal input to his children. This is a legitimate fear. The less time he has with them, the less he wants to discipline. Children need parents even visiting parents, to set up predictable structures and limits. Set up the rules quickly so you spend less time disciplining.
* Predictability and Organization Create Intimacy: In a home with structure parents and children spend less time negotiating and arguing. Parent/child power struggles over repetitive issues waste time and undermine the c

 

 

 

 

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