web directory link about Family TLC link contact us link

Helping Your Kids Through a Divorce

Holidays with Single Parents or Blended Families

Stepmotherhood: How to Survive without Feeling Frustrated, Left Out,or Wicked

Family Rule: Helping Stepfamilies and Single Parents Build Happy Homes





by Tania K. Cowling

Most U.S. marriages break up when kids are either very young or when they are teenagers, and most remarriages happen within a few years of the breakup. Thus, about 35 percent of U.S. teenagers are now part of a stepfamily.

Because teenagers are at a stage in life where theyĦre trying to assert their independence, itĦs not easy for them to integrate into a new step-family bent on Àtogetherness.” The key is to go slowly and to be aware that the teenage stepchildren can be moody and appear to be indifferent, but down deep they need to feel they Àbelong” to their new family.

Stepfamilies grow and develop through shared experiences and good verbal communication, but this too takes time. How stepparents communicate is as important as what they communicate.Teenagers want to be taken seriously. Show respect for their ideas, opinions, temperament, desire for privacy and the physical changes they are going through. The bonus for showing respect is winning respect.

Teenage stepchildren need positive and caring discipline, but itĦs hard for them to accept yet another authority figure in their lives. So, typically, it is the new stepparent who bears the brunt of a teenagerĦs anger and rebellion. HeĦs afraid heĦs losing his biological parent; so lashing out at a stepparent becomes a way of coping. Teens are also old enough to sense any insecurities you may have and are likely to take advantage of it. If you are the biological parent, reassure your teen that you are not abandoning him or her and that no one will come between you. Put your words into action by continuing to do the things you enjoy doing together.

When a stepfamily is formed, the new partners need to agree on some basic rules that cover areas such as chores, homework, participation in family activities, food and mealtime behavior, pet care responsibilities, religious practices, money, privacy, dating, and any limits on the TV, phone, computer, VCR, and car.

Family rules should apply to visiting stepchildren also, but be willing to do some negotiating. For example, if a teenager has another curfew at his other house, decide on one rule and make sure all the kids follow it.

Here are some ideas for ways to create smooth relationships with teenage stepchildren

  •  Learn more about teen development. When teenagers push you away, theyĦre not really trying to hurt your feelings. Be aware also that most teenagers will not ask you directly about yourself, but they are listening and watching everything you do.
  • Be a nice person. DonĦt waste your time lecturing, scolding and voicing your disapproval. YouĦll most likely be Àtuned out” anyway. Try to become a trusted advisor and ally.
  • Communicate with humor and affection. Pass along information in many forms: handwritten notes tacked on the fridge, e-mail and voice mail messages. Make reminders about chores brief. For example: ÀTroy, Tuesday, Trash!”
  • Balance family togetherness with a teenĦs need to be with friends. Encourage teens to bring their friendĦs home. That way, you know where they are and you get to know their friends. You can learn a lot when you see kids interacting with their peers.
  • Watch out for flirtatious behavior. Sexual energy between teenagers and their stepparents is common, but dangerous. If your child or stepchild starts parading around scantily clothed, for example, discuss this behavior with your partner. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • DonĦt try to buy a teenĦs love and acceptance. It wonĦt work in the long run. Resist the temptation to overindulge and over schedule, especially with visiting stepchildren.

(adapted from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)


web directory link about Family TLC link contact us link

all about kids articles - l babies l toddlers l preschoolers l 5 - 9 year olds l preteens l teens l parent/child dialogue l
l sitemap l web directory l about us l contact us l conditions of use l privacy notice l

© 2002, 2003 FirstTeacherTLC.com All rights Reserved.