I have always had the greatest admiration for men who willingly embrace the greatest responsibility in the world. Fatherhood is scary and daunting enough without the additional pressure of being a parent to children not your own. It is an important bond not only for the sanctity of a harmonious family unit but it can make or break your relationship. Here is how you can help your partner navigate parenting.
1. Parenthood 101
If your partner doesn't have children of his own, you can't expect him to know what to do. Guide him through the basics of parenting and don't assume anything. This will set a comfortable foundation for him to work from.
2. Explain the Boundaries
As a parent, you would no doubt have set some family rules. Make it known to your partner and tell him why they are important and what you hope your children will gain out of it. That way he has an understanding of your goals and your expectations so that he may exercise the same boundaries.
3. Pre-empting Challenging Behaviour
You know your children best so if you know something is going to set off a tantrum or unbecoming sulkiness, warn your partner. At the same time, let him know how long it may last for and how to resolve it. My 7 year old daughter goes into meltdown later in the evening when she's over tired and whilst this is perfectly normal behaviour, it was completely foreign to him. He now knows how to read the signs and handles the situation perfectly.
Consistency is paramount. Children of divorce are already experiencing a very difficult time of uncertainty. What they need now is stability and so it's important that your partner is consistent in the things that he says and does. It reduces the need for the children to try and figure him out and allows them to start feeling comfortable around him.
5. Deliver Your Promises
Children of divorce have also been subjected to broken promises. Let your partner know that promises should always be kept, no matter how trivial or minute. If circumstance doesn't allow him to act on those promises, he needs to explain to the children why that's the case and that he would do it another time.
6. Love Is Not Enough
I said this to my partner at the start of our relationship. Parenting comes with relentless responsibilities, 24/7. You would eat, breathe and live as a parent with children always top of mind. Love is imperative but prepare him for the fact that parenting requires a commitment greater than marriage, involves considerable inner strength and is never ending.
7. Be Yourself
Despite having to teach him the ropes with the expectation that he needs to follow family rules, he should be himself. He can't change who he is to suit the children. The kids need to adapt as well and that way, they know that what they're seeing is who they have to live with.
8. Don't Be Afraid To Show Love
Children are very receptive to love so don't be tentative about your partner expressing his feelings. My partner is a very emotional person who shows his love constantly and physically. He hugs and kisses my daughter every single day which has enhanced their relationship immensely.
9. Don't Look At Him As A Stepdad
The best way to integrate him into the family is to stop looking at him as the "step" father. If you do, then the children will too. If you place him in the position of being a member of the family, his behaviour, the decisions that he makes and every thought process will change. Eventually, the children will come to rely upon him for things only he can provide and hopefully forming a beautiful bond.
10. Have Fun!
One of the great things about a new partner is discovering things together and experiencing new adventures. Start creating your own memories for the years to come and embrace this new chapter in your lives. Have fun, stay carefree and be active!
My partner has never been married and doesn't have children of his own. He met my daughter when he was 40 and to say fatherhood has changed his life is an understatement. He tells me that being a father and having a family is WHO he is, not WHAT he has. I have learnt much from this man and together, we continue to discover parenting and its ever changing landscape!