Saturday, January 12, 2008


Stepfathers must resist a certain temptation that is almost certain to come their way - stepfather must not be the HERO.

When the confluence of a struggling bio mother, her angry or hurting or grieving child, a newly formed romantic relationship, and the seemingly inherent male desire to fix problems come together you have yourself the potential for a serious temptation.

It is tempting for the stepfather to come in, take charge, and make everything right. He'll soothe his new wife's pain and sadness and feelings of failure, he'll straighten out the child, and he'll bering order to the lingering choas.

The problem is that he not only won't end up doing that, he is not even capable of doing it. A couple of things are going to happen if stepdad tries to be the hero. First, he will set himself up for disappointment. He will taste failure as it is forcefed to him. The other thing that will happen is that he will create more distance between himself and the stepchild. In his effort to make everything all better his will require more loyalty adn compliance from the family than he is entitled to.

Stepdads, rather than clearing house and taking charge of the family, enter the challenging situation as an opportunity to be a helpful consultant (not the CEO). Resist the temptation to seize control ofn the family. Rather, offer some of your skill and power to the family.

Over time, you will not be tempted to ceize control of challenging situations because you will be invited to share yourself with the family. The less you force it the more likely you will be invtied into it.

Stepfathers should work hard to be an aroma that smells so good that the rest of the family cannot resist. Let your goodness shine adn force nothing.


Diane said...

I could not agree more with this advice. For thirteen years I have been the stepmother of two children who lost their mom when they were six and four. Since their mother was not around physically, the temptation to jump in and play the mom role was even greater. When I stopped trying to be such a mom and focused instead on helping my spouse be a stronger parent, the kids saw me as more than an intrusion. I've captured this and other guidance about living with a child whose parent has died in my book, Stepparenting the Grieving Child. If you are looking for help on this topic, please check out my website at

Anonymous said...

Good advice. I've tried to be the hero and failed from the repercussions after 6 years of marriage. My relationship with my wife is strained because of my relationship with my stepson and my relationship with my stepson has gone nowhere from day one (it seems) -- it's a grueling road. Resist.

Ruth said...

What about those stepfathers who jump in and want to change/control everything? It is a struggle in our house lots of times that my husband and I are so different when it comes to parenting styles.

Emily Bouchard said...

When a divorced or widowed parent remarries, no one is really prepared for what lies ahead--not the parent, not the spouse, not the adult children. The first shock is usually the stark contrast between the joy of the older bride and groom and the response of virtually everyone else in both their families. There's a big difference between them. The parents choose to be married. They are volunteers. The adult children are being drafted; they didn't choose this new arrangement. It is being imposed upon them.

Smirking Cat said...

Wanting to fix everything is definitely a struggle for stepmoms too, especially when the father is assaulted emotionally and financially by a bitter ex-wife, and the kids are caught in the line of fire. It is hard to watch people you care about suffer and not feel like you should jump in and stop the pain.