At times being a stepfather can be a rewarding, challenging and disappointing experience. Like with any other endeavor worth pursuing you have to be intentional about being a great stepfather. To be a great stepfather requires maturity, perseverance and commitment. Underlying these attributes must be a strong marriage where there is unity of purpose regarding raising the children between the husband and wife. Anything less than singular agreement will weaken the stepfather's role within the family. While each stepfamily has its own unique dynamics and circumstances there are three things you can do to ensure you're a great stepfather.

Focus on Your Marriage. Statistics show one of the main causes of divorce in blended families is the stress of step parenting. As much as possible focus on your wife and marriage and not the children. This will ultimately benefit everyone including the children. If the children see love, respect and open communication between you and your spouse, they will feel more secure and may even learn to model those qualities. Keep in mind early on this might not necessarily be considered a positive by your stepchildren. In fact, they may be threatened by it. Some children who hold a strong fantasy their parents will reconcile will find your commitment a barrier to life as they would have it. Taking good care of their mom will help get the children to like you and maybe even love you the fastest. Set aside "alone time" with your wife by making regular dates. Take their mother out to do the things she loves doing and once in a while invite the children to join in. A fun and enjoyable event for everyone is a great catalyst for developing your relationship with the children. Be sensitive to your wife is also mom and there will be times when she will have to help or spend time with her child when you would really like her to be spending time with you. Finally, never put your wife in a situation where she has to choose between you or her children. She will always choose her child.

Practice Patience and More Patience. Take your time when joining a blended family. It is a complex family built out of a loss from death or divorce resulting in the breakup of the first family. Don't expect your stepfamily to work like a biological family. Given time close loving relationships between all family members may develop but it also might never happen. It takes time to develop common goals and values and establish family history and traditions. Don't set yourself up by expecting a close loving relationship with or acknowledgement and appreciation from your stepchildren. This may not happen for many years if at all. While you cannot expect instant attachment or love you can expect to be treated respectfully. Model respectful behavior towards your step children and let them see you set the example. Encourage trust by never making negative comments about the biological parent or siblings around your step children. Many stepfathers make the mistake of establishing authority over their stepchildren too early and the children will resent it! Let their mother handle the issues early on, but be on the watch for opportunities where you can step in and allow them to build some trust in you. This can transpire through casual conversations where you can allow them to open up and share their feelings with you. Present a unified parenting approach to the kids - arguing or disagreeing in front of them may encourage them to try to come between you.

Relationship with Your Stepchildren. Talk to the children's mother about your role and ensure both parties understand and are in agreement. At least initially your role is more of a friend or mentor rather than a disciplinarian. Communicate to your stepchildren you're not their dad and won't try to take his place. Let the biological (custodial) parent remain primarily responsible for discipline until you developed solid bonds with the kids. Create a list of family rules. Discuss the rules with the children and post them in a prominent place. This may diminish custodial parent-stepparent-stepchild tension. Try to understand what the rules and boundaries are for the kids in their other residence, and, if possible, be consistent. A great number of stepchildren will have a hard time accepting you and will often defy your decisions and cause all kinds of problems within your blended family during these times it's important to remember it's not about you. Your stepchildren's negative reactions to stepparents are really about the child's losses and not you. Keep your expectations low -your stepchildren may not respect you or hold you in high regard. Remember they didn't have a choice as to divorce and remarry. The drastic changes they are going through need to be met with realistic expectations and understanding. Be approachable and accessible to your stepchildren. Being a great stepfather will probably require you to have your own support and feedback system. You shouldn't expect your stepchildren to thank you for the role you played in their life. Suggest viewing being a stepfather as a job where you establish measures for your effectiveness. Additionally, suggest finding another stepfather you can be accountable with and support each other.

Author's Bio: 

I'm Gerardo Campbell a stepfather veteran of 16+ years. In 1995, when I married the "Pretty Lady" and I became the stepfather to her two children ages 10 and 14 at the time. Back in 1995, there was little, if any, resources, information or coaching available for stepfathers. I became a stepfather equipped with the very best intentions combined with my own perceptions, expectations and very little outside preparation. Considering the mountains we faced over the years it's only through God's grace we didn't end up another divorce statistic. Through this website I want to share with you my experience, my lessons learned and the lessons learned from others. It is possible to be a successful stepparent.

I am a Nebraska native who now calls Silicon Valley home. The Pretty Lady and I now have an 11 year old son Nathaniel.