How to Survive without Feeling Frustrated, Left Out,or Wicked
Helping Stepfamilies and Single Parents Build Happy Homes
BUILDING RAPPORT WITH NEW TEENAGE STEPCHILDREN
Tania K. Cowling
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
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.
IS THE KEY
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.
DIFFERENT ABOUT TEENS?
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.
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.
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
are some ideas for ways to create smooth relationships with teenage
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
from Work & Family Life newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)