Tips for Men in Stepfamilies

In traditional biological families, men have been expected to be the wage earners, the heads of their families, and the disciplinarians. Meanwhile, women have been expected to serve as the emotional core, providing nurturing and affection to the family. Step families however, may have a very hard time functioning this way successfully, especially when it is premature.
Here are some tips to help men develop and become comfortable as husbands, fathers, or stepfathers.

  • If you are a biological father married to a woman without children of her own, please be proactively involved in your children’s lives. Some men, uncomfortable with the responsibility they bore as single dads, literally ‘dump’ the caring for the children on the new wife as soon as (or before) they get married. The children feel emotionally abandoned, the stepmother becomes frustrated, and the man ends up blaming his wife for lack of caring, forgetting his part in this equation.
  • If you are a man without biological children, married to a woman with children, assume your role as a stepfather gradually. Do not discipline (even if your wife begs you to) for about a year and a half. Building a relationship with the children is crucial to your stepfamily success. When you finally do discipline, it will be much more effective than if you had started before a positive relationship with the children was established.
  • If both you and your wife are biological parents, continue to separately parent your own children for about 18 months. Use this time to stabilize your relationship with your biological children. Remember, your marriage is a major life transition that requires a major adjustment of all of you—one which may be filled with anxiety, fear, and hope. Also, develop a similar parenting style with your wife. It can greatly help in creating cohesiveness and clarity for your family.

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