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How stepdads can build relationships in blended families

For a man, winning the heart of a woman requires a certain sense of style, chivalry and charm.  To win the hearts of her children, it takes an entirely different set of skills, including kindness, resourcefulness and patience.

Blended families are becoming more common as parents find love after divorce and opt to join their respective families. While it may seem simple, joining families is not so easy, especially for stepdads. They may be caught in a netherworld between being an authority figure and just their parent’s love interest. When this happens, men can feel out of place or run the risk of upsetting the previous family dynamic.

A professor and a grad student from BYU examined the potential problems stepdads face. By studying hundreds of blended families, they found three key factors that contribute to a harmonious household.

First, they found that a stepdad must agree with mom on how to parent the kids. There must be a basic agreement on how much influence (and authority) a stepdad may have, and when he must defer to mom or the other father. This is important because kids are likely to be confused about who they must listen to, and who has the final say in a dispute. (After all, kids are certainly adept at playing parents against each other.)

Second, moms should encourage their kids to talk about any frustrations they have with their stepdad. This is also important in ensuring that simple issues do not fester and grow into significant problems. While disagreements are destined to occur, clear communication can prevent problems in the future.

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