Guys, what did you do for your summer vacation? Ask any kid in a stepfamily and your own answer may pale in comparison. From “Oh, I spent a couple of weeks with my dad and stepmom. I was excited but really scared too,” or “We did nothing because my mom works two jobs and my stepdad doesn’t like me.”
Get the drift? Your experience as a stepdad can be is a galaxy apart from a step child’s point of view. On the other hand, dads who put their children on a plane or drive them across town after only seeing them for a short time can experience much pain as well.
Now it’s time to prepare all “those people” (those people are your children bio or step) to return to school. If it’s grade school or their junior year of college, what is the spirit in which you send them off?
Guys, it matters how you punctuate summer and transition to fall. Your level of enthusiasm, assurance, encouragement, shared wisdom and advice can make a difference to all “those people.”
A man’s perspective of stepping out and offering (age-appropriate) direction to new situations are bits of you that stick with your kids…step or bio. Once you’ve shared how you felt about going back to school, ask them what they think or feel. Then listen. Not just to the words but their heart. Show empathy. Remember, they are the experts in their school experience right now. This is a great learning opportunity for you too!
Build a bridge for them to approach you. How safe are you? This can be a huge advantage for you, especially if your stepchild’s relationship with their bio Dad is strained…or nonexistent! One day they will leave for school and not come back as kids but as young adults who need a vital connection to you as a dad/stepdad. As many of you know “those people” keep coming back! We don’t always know what frame of mind they will have when they arrive. Returning from being gone for a day or a semester, what is the tone you have left with them? Are you safe, approachable and easy to talk to?
Finally, guys, lead in love and concern. That is never forgotten. The pay off is a long term deal! Remember that “till death do us part” segment of your vows? Believe me, your wife will be thrilled when you lead with integrity and love. Remember, when you married her, her kids were part of the package. Any way you can support and encourage her kids, the payoffs will be HUGE in the marriage! The best gift you can give your kids (step and bio) is a healthy marriage. This will impact the legacy of your family for generations to come!
I hear a school bell ringing…gotta go!