A Stepfather’s Guide to Father’s Day

By: Henry Gornbein
Last Update: June 19, 2017

If you're a stepfather, you might be wondering if Father’s Day something to look forward to or to dread. Let’s start with the reality that stepparents – whether a father or mother – have no legal rights. You cannot legally force your stepchildren to do anything.

In some situations, this makes you the unwanted guest in your own home when your stepchildren are around. On the other hand, if you have a close loving relationship with your stepchildren, then the home environment can be wonderful when your stepchildren are around.

A lot depends upon who your stepchildren are, as well as the length of time that you've been involved in their upbringing. The attitude of your spouse, their mother, can play a major role as well. The more that she fosters the relationship, the better things will be.

The Many Challenges of Being a Stepfather

To say the least it can be quite complicated. I have had many clients who remarry and assume that the new blended family will become the next Brady Bunch; sadly, in most situations, this is far from the reality. Stepparents are often seen as the enemy by their stepchildren, who may still wish that their natural parents were back together. They may blame you, their stepfather, for the demise of the prior marriage. At the very least, they may find it hard to accept the reality that their mother is now legally remarried and the chances of going back to their father have been eliminated. They may do their best to sabotage the new marriage. Be on your guard in those situations.

Another reality is that on Father’s Day, your stepchildren are probably going to spend part or all of the day with their natural father – not you.

8 Tips for Stepparents as Father's Day Approaches

  1. You get more with honey then you do with vinegar. Try to be as nice as possible to your stepchildren.
  2. Accept the fact that while you have no legal rights, if there is a good relationship between you and your stepchildren, you will be richly rewarded.
  3. Don’t have high expectations regarding Father’s Day so that you won’t be disappointed.
  4. Do fun things with your stepchildren if you see them on Father’s Day.
  5. If families can blend then that is best for everyone. I have an example where a family has a Father’s Day barbeque every year that includes the natural parents and the step parents. It has turned out to be a wonderful gathering where everyone has an enjoyable afternoon and evening.
  6. Remember that every family and situation is different. By being patient and not too demanding you may have a very pleasant Father’s Day as a step parent.
  7. Don’t blow it out of proportion. Father’s Day is only one day of the year. The key is to spend as much quality time to build a relationship as possible during the other days of the year when you are with your step children.
  8. Finally, your step children will often take their cues from their mother. If she encourages or pays for gifts and cards then they will become a reality. Marriage and child rearing is a team sport.

These are some of my thoughts about surviving Father’s Day as a stepparent. What are yours?


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