Ron Deal: The Smart Stepdad

Nearly 95.5 million adults have at least 1 step relative in the family; 16.5 million men are stepdads. Ron Deal says stepdads must choose to be a hero in the family God has given them. In the United States 50% of children will have a stepparent at some point in their lifetimes; 90% of children in stepfamilies live with their mom and stepdad.  

Despite this truth, Ron says the church has not yet positioned itself to help.  Most people cannot name one book, workshop or program dedicated to helping stepdads raise their stepchildren. If millions of children – like Jesus – will grow up with a stepfather he says it’s time for the church to rise up and support stepfamilies.

Seeing this need, Ron started Successful Stepfamilies. This organization is dedicated to meeting the unique needs of remarriages and equipping churches and pastors to do the same. The ministry grew out of the Ron’s family training ministry, his work as a family life minister and family therapist.

Ron’s counseling background began in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and includes more than 20 years in family ministry and marriage enrichment. Being involved with hundreds of families and their varying relationships, he found that stepfamilies could do well if given proper guidance and help. Unfortunately, traditional parenting advice often backfires when applied to a blended family.

Understanding how to be a stepdad takes time. “It’s about finding your fit in relationship to your wife and the kids’ biological father so you can be part of the team that leads your family up the mountain of life. You’re not climbing over children. You are trying to connect and bond with them so they’ll want to join you as you journey through life together,” reveals Ron.

Some stepdads climb Stepdad Mountain the right way and others the wrong way. One step-dad-to-be thought it was his job to take charge of his new family. He was an ex-marine. His goal was to take over, and demand that his stepchildren obey him. His first few years as a stepdad were filled with conflict until he learned how to reassess his situation. He learned to work with his family and realized the importance of gaining their respect.
Another stepdad chose not to force himself on his stepchildren but always included them and tried to get involved in what they enjoyed. He looked for the common ground on which to interact. For example, he attended all their concerts and games. He even gave them space and refrained from hugging his stepchildren until they were more comfortable with him.

Ron did not grow up in a blended family and he is not a stepdad, however he respects stepdads. He believes stepdads are heroes. “You carry all the responsibilities of fatherhood, provide for your family, and serve as a leader and coach to children who are not your own.” he says.
He reminds stepdads that the goal of step parenting is to join biological parents in their tasks of raising and maturing healthy, responsible, faith focused children. Below are tips Ron offers to help conquer stepdad mountain:

  • Trust God to Lead. Ask God to show you what to do, when you don’t know.
  • Understand the Limits of Your Role. It’s not your responsibility to undo the past. Come alongside children and love them. Don’t try to be the white knight in shining armor.
  • Move in with Tact. Respect children’s loyalties.
  • Partner with Your Wife. She needs to believe that you are committed to and care about her, her children, and their past experiences before you will receive her trust.

In February 2009, Ron and Nan’s 12 year old son, Connor, passed away unexpectedly. MRSA, a staph infection, attacked his otherwise healthy body, resulting in double pneumonia. In addition, he had the flu. In a little over a week Connor died. Through his own personal loss, Ron says he can better understand the scope of the grieving process for stepchildren. All step children have some measure of loss. They may have experienced:

  • A loss of security and control over their lives
  • The realization that parents can lie, turn their backs on people they love, and do hurtful things.
  • The realization that despite what the pastor says, marriage is not forever and hope does not always win the day.
  • The death of a parent or the death of their family (through divorce).

Ron says stepchildren need exactly what he needed during his time of personal loss. “The way you minister to them (children) is to be physically present, hold their memories, and hold their sadness,” shares Ron.

To honor Connor’s memory, Ron and Nan have partnered with Touch a Life Foundation, a Texas based nonprofit that seeks to end child trafficking in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Ghana. They feel that establishing such an effort is a step toward hope and healing.

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