I’m not one to recommend divorce. But it happens. My parents were divorced by the time I was two. My step-dad was married before my mom. And I know dozens (literally dozens) of people that have paid a check to the divorce lawyer. It just happens. Lives change, and all that. But what about the kids? When a new dad comes in the picture, especially. Based on my experiences with the most awesome dad (who happened to be my step-dad), I know that Step-Dads Can Rock a Girl’s World. Here’s my top 10 ways to bring that awesomeness home.
- Say “I Love You”. By doing this, dad (forget that he’s a step-dad, now he’s just dad) provides the daily affirmation a girl needs to build self-confidence and worth. If bio-dad is out of the picture for even 1/3 of the time, daughters need to hear those three magic words desperately. And they need to hear it from the dude in their mom’s life. They need to hear it directed to mom and to the daughter. It’s basically saying: “you’re worth me caring for you”.
- Listen. Step-dads can be the “sounding board” for all the confusion she feels. Even if she’s not saying “hey, I’m confused”, she might be just trying things out for how they fit on her. So, just listen. You don’t have to understand always, but being a set of ears really is a big deal.
- Be present. Step-dads can establish the “what it means to be a family” just by being present and in the room. She’s just had her idea of what it is to live together shattered. Step-dads have the opportunity to show a girl that being part of a family is not just about divorce and arguments and worry–but about working together as a team.
- Support Mommy. You’re her partner, even in front of and regarding her kids. They’re your kids, now, too. So, yeah, don’t just be silent while things are going down, be supportive. That doesn’t mean step-in-and-take-over, but just being in the room, holding her hand, or sitting next to her on the couch when she’s talking. Be a party to the partnership, you’ll be teaching your step-daughter how that relationship should work.
- Gift her one-on-one time with mom. Step-dads are often perceived as “taking mom away” from the kids. So, show her that’s not the case. Give them a gift card to a manicure together, or just a day in the house together while you go out and do something. But give them time to be mom-and-daughter.
- Gift her with one-on-one time with you. Let mom go out for the day. Or make a regular step-dad/daughter breakfast on the third Saturday of the month. She needs to be comfortable around step-dad without mom there. The daughter needs to feel like she’s special to the step-dad in a way that is separate from mom.
- Say a kind word about bio-dad. Every girl realizes that half of their being is from that dude that provided the sperm. But no way is it easy for her to separate herself from the idea that she’s “half-him”. So, instead of saying bad things, say something nice. He made half of that beautiful girl. And she knows it.
- Tell her she’s beautiful. Yup. There again, there’s that self-confidence booster that step-dads can dole-out that no one else can.
- Find an inside joke. It might be hard to imagine, but step-dads should be a little funny to their step-daughters. That makes the relationship a lot easier to digest and a lot more relatable. But step-dads don’t need to be jokesters. That’s just stupid. So just one inside joke to share, something special and silly. Right.
- Treat her like a daughter. Step-dads don’t replace dads. But by treating her like you would your own daughter, giving her the respect you’d show your own, that puts a value to her that is much greater than you can realize today.