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For Stepfathers

Dr. Meg Meeker

Dr. Meg Meeker

Not too long ago, I asked readers to tell me what topics they’d like to see on my blog. I’m working through those suggestions and today is the first in that series.

Since it’s the last day of June and I’ve been devoting this month to discussing fathers and their importance in the lives of their children, I think I’ll start by answering the question posed by one of my readers about stepfathers and the difference they can can make in the lives of their stepdaughters.

I hear many of you ask, “Can I really make a difference in my stepdaughter’s life?” My answer: Unquestionably!  I have been to more than a couple of weddings where the bride’s stepfather walked her down the aisle while her biologic father sat in the pews. That alone tells you that, as far as the impact that you can make on your stepdaughter’s life, the sky’s the limit.

Here are a few suggestions for you that will help strengthen your relationship with your stepdaughter.

  1. Never criticize her biologic father. The key to helping her open up to you and trust you is to keep her off of the defensive about her biologic Dad. If she senses that you feel threatened by him or that you don’t like him, she’ll shut down. So, while you may not like him or how he treats her, let her do the criticizing.
  2. At first, leave discipline to her mother. Support her mother, but, as tempted as you are to keep her in line, let her mother do all the work. Over time, you will earn her trust and she will listen to you much more after you’ve established a solid foundation to your relationship.
  3. Ask her what she likes to do and then ask her to take you along when she does it. Enter her world. Don’t push, but let her know that you are interested in her and the things that she likes to do. The pay-off will be tremendous.
  4. Learn her friends’ names and interests. Daughters love it when parents are interested in their friends. And remember- the same rule about criticism applies to her friends as with her biologic father- don’t criticize. She will know what you think of them, regardless what you say. You want to keep her off of the defensive so that she’ll open up to you.
  5. Love her. Show her affection. Don’t smother her or be insincere, but compliment her and communicate to her that you want to be in her life for the long haul. Remember, in her mind, Dad has bailed on her and she’s waiting for you to do the same. So any reassurance that you can give her that you won’t leave her too will win her over.
  6. Be patient. Then, be more patient. She is a wounded, hurting girl and will put you off at first- maybe even for years. But if you show her- over the years, not months- that you are serious about loving her and her mother, you can literally change the course of her life.

Fathers, stepfathers, father-figures, you are so important and valued in the eyes and hearts of your children. Biological daughter or not, that little soul needs your attention, character, admiration and simply, all that you are. May you rise to meet that challenge!

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Feeling a a bit uneasy about having "the talk" with your son or daughter?
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