Don’t be deceived. Not for a second. This pic was from our hike today and it was a pretty good time, but I’m telling you we have our challenges. I write this from the perspective of being corny-joke-telling, goofy, stubborn, Jesus-loving, and opinionated dad and stepdad. Together we have a total of 6 wild, awesome, silly, adventurous and sometimes quite challenging kids. If you’re a new or old stepdad, I hope this encourages you! Here’s ten thing I’ve learned and continue to learn –
- Discover and develop your patience. I actually could have written this for all ten points and that might just about cover it.
- Keep it natural. Don’t be that guy who tries too hard. If the vibe is to chill, than just chill. You don’t need to be the best soccer coach or Superdad. In fact, it’s the best recipe for failure. Just be yourself.
- These are your kids. In their worst moments, try to see them through the eyes of your spouse, the same eyes you see your biological children with. Being a step parent is a more manufactured love at first, and grows through time. They may initially be confused or resent you, and it’s ok if they do. However you arrived there, your new son or daughter has experienced some levels of loss, and it’s ok to let them grieve through it. Grieving may include not engaging in a deep relationship with you for now, and it’s ok if it takes awhile. Your open acceptance of them, regardless of how they embrace you, will make all the difference.
- Find out quickly what their gifts are and find ways to inspire them to use them. Do they love computers or the outdoors? Are they are a hooked on books or bikes? Is it soccer or sewing? Do they like to draw or juggle? Each child in your home is created uniquely by the Creator, and we need to know the child to love the child. Once you find their gifts, keep going back to them and encourage them in their growth.
- Be yourself. Do NOT take yourself too seriously. Ever. Let them tease and joke. Respect will take time, and that’s ok. If you need to make up a story about unicorns fighting alien dinosaurs, then do it. If the story stinks, and what story about unicorns doesn’t stink, even better. Just have fun!
- Are they introverted or extraverted? We have a wide range in our home, and knowing how they connect with people and relationships is incredibly important. Keep things loose and make adjustments for each kid as you go. It’s important they all can enjoy being together, so be flexible.
- Beat them at Mario Kart 8. Find a way. You have to be able to win at video games occasionally. Or at least be competitive. And teach them sportsmanship. Have fun when you do horrible and congratulate the winners.
- Your actions are everything. If you thought with your biological children “actions speak louder than words” well, you can trust me it is even more so in your new relationships. Do not make commitments you can’t keep (says the king of over-commitments). Do what you say and say what you mean. You do not have instant credibility with your step kids and they need to feel safe and that you can be counted on.
- Let them call you whatever they want. Pop, your name, or biscuit head for all I care. Don’t get weird about titles. Or anything, except your corny jokes. And I keep saying it, but you can tell really corny jokes and get away with it. I’ve been doing this for eighteen years.
- Teach them about Jesus and the scriptures. This is maybe the most important impact you could have on their lives, and it’s incredibly important for their future. By providing them a rock solid foundation in God’s word, you provide them with the knowledge and understanding in how to live this life. Be persistent. Our Bible study times as a family don’t always appear to be “successful”, but we stick with it. We don’t give up. Experiment with different times/settings and encourage involvement by all.
Being a stepdad is a wonderful and crazy thing, and I am so blessed to have the opportunity to impact the Kingdom of God in a completely different way. Feel free to leave comments or questions.