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Teenagers and Step Families

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 11 Mar 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
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All children have difficulty making the transition from living with single or divorced parents, to living with a full blown stepfamily and none more so than teenagers. Teens are old enough to remember what life was like before “the others,” and they are also old enough to feel that they should have some say over their living arrangements. Even the best behaved of teens may have trouble assimilating to a new home life, but there is much that parents can do to help make sure that their teens become comfortable with their new stepfamilies.

Keep Your Teen in the Loop

If teens are aware of the developments in their parents’ relationships chances are good that they will be much more comfortable when it comes time for each new step. As a parent, if you are becoming serious with someone new then you must keep your children informed. If engagement seems likely, begin discussions to this effect. Making grand announcements later on will be hard enough, but if your teen feels blindsided his/her reaction could be that much more violent.

Don’t Push

If teens feel pushed into something, whether it be a study group, a part time job or a new stepfamily, they are likely to rebel. Don’t push your teen to play happy families if that is not what they are feeling. Insist on politeness and respect, but give your teen the time and attention (s)he deserves to process all of the changes occurring in your lives. Be sure to spend extra quality time with your teen to discuss his/her emotions and prove to them that you are still the same parent and that the two of you can still have the same kind of relationship. Even if your teen isn’t voicing these worries, chances are (s)he is still feeling them.

Allow Room for Improvement

It would be foolhardy to think that right from the get-go teens will be open and accepting of a new stepfamily. Remember, teens are probably feeling anger or frustration over the loss of their biological family as well as protective of both the parent entering the relationship and possibly even the parent “left behind”. This can be a recipe for frustration at the very least. Accept that things will not be peachy at the very start – and if they are, beware of a possible crash later on. Allow room for improvement and your teen will probably surprise you with how flexible they become later on.

Set the Household Rules

All families have household rules and stepfamilies should be no different. Holding a household discussion about rights and responsibilities (including chores, curfews and discipline) will help keep everything clear for everyone. One caveat – if you and your new spouse have different parenting styles this may lead children to see different rules applied to different kids as unfair. Try to keep all members of the household following the same set of rules to avoid confusion or frustration.

Regardless of how trying teens can become, parents must remember that they are not yet adults and therefore need extra care when it comes to entering a new stepfamily. Each teen will take his/her own time processing these changes, and most likely each will do it in his/her own way. As a parent, you must be ready to help your teen as best you can and refrain from pushing him/her into the picture that you have formulated for your new family. Instead, remind your teen that you are there for him/her and show your support as often as you can. Before you know it you’ll likely be having new family fun.

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