How Dads And Stepdads Can Make This Work
Being a divorced dad can be one of the most frustrating experiences any parent will ever face. For many, it seems like a can’t-win situation. You find that you’re constantly trying to prove yourself; to your ex, to the children, and often to a stepdad who has moved into the picture.
If mom has custody of the children, it’s more than likely that your children are seeing more of stepdad than you. That can feel very disempowering and bring up all sorts of issues, not to mention jealousy. While it’s understandable for any dad to feel that way, it is also wise to get a handle on that jealousy, for the sake of your children.
Think about it this way. When it comes to those children, both you and stepdad share a common interest, their well-being. For that reason finding a way to get along with stepdad, and show him some respect for his efforts on their behalf, can positively impact everyone in the family dynamic, especially your children. They don’t want to see you angry, fighting, or putting down mom or stepdad. The emotional upheaval this creates for your children complicates their lives, filling them with guilt, confusion and a lack of confidence when it comes to trusting new relationships.
Tom Wohlmut, President of Stepfamily Network, says men tend to be very competitive and territorial. But, when they’re parenting the same child, they need to think about being on the same football team, not opposing teams. A supportive father will therefore help his children to not feel guilty for liking or supporting stepdad as he interacts in their lives.
“In fact,” says Wohlmut, “you might want to ask yourself, ‘What is the one thing I can do to acknowledge the male father figure?’ Children need to understand there is only one dad and one mom and that will never, ever change. But, that doesn’t mean the other male in their life doesn’t have good qualities they can benefit from.”
This, of course, is equally relevant if a new stepmom enters the picture on your side. The goal is to do whatever you can to keep your children from feeling conflicted or disloyal if they get along with their stepparents and find many of their qualities or areas of expertise to be appealing.
Children have a huge capacity to love as well as to learn from many influences in their lives. Don’t force them to depend exclusively on you, especially if you’re needing it as an ego boost. The real challenge is to continue to build, keep and maintain your relationship with your children, despite time intervals and distance because of your love for them. You are fortunate when stepdad is a complementary figure in their lives who sincerely cares for them and strives to do his best.
No one ever said being a divorced dad was easy. There are no guarantees regarding who a new stepdad will be either. But when you keep your perspective clearly focused on your children’s emotional and psychological well-being, you’ll be steered in the right direction for yourself and your children. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?