So lately I have been wondering what my role as a stepmom looks like as my stepchildren are getting older. They are teenagers now and do teenager things, out with their friends and basically only listen them. Parents and stepparents alike are being squeezed out as is the natural course of the teenager. But as a stepparent, the squeeze feels farther out. For anyone who is a stepparent, you already know that you often feel like you are looking from the sidelines and naturally as you are the new person in. But once you have been with your family for a while you start to move closer to the inner circle and the sidelines are in the distance. Then one day things change again, the kids grow up. They need their parents in different ways and turn to their parents for support and advice and share in their special moments with their parents first. They are their “go to” and suddenly the sidelines are close and the inner circle looks far away again.
It is hard to adjust and cope with these types of changes. Practically thinking, you know this is how it should be because kids should always turn to their parents. Emotionally it hurts because you feel as though you are also a parent and it is difficult to bring the practical and the emotional thinking together. So as step-parents how do we do this? In all honesty, I am not fully certain myself. It definitely is a challenge but can be done. I have done a couple of things that have helped me.
First and foremost, I talked to my husband about my feelings. Your partner’s support is key to making you feel included in your step-family life. Honest communication is vital to a couple and a step-family. I also talked to the kids about how I was feeling. As they are older now they can understand human emotions and feelings and they can definitely relate to the feeling of being left out. I think every child has had that experience at some point in their life. If they can empathize they will know how to change and how to make you feel included the next time. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with your family, if you can’t be open and honest with all of them then who can you turn to?
The last thing I did was talk to myself and realize that teenagers will make all the people in their life feel like they are on the sidelines at some point including their parents. They too are trying to figure themselves out and how each person fits into their lives as they grow to independence. They too are assessing the role of each person in their life and what type of support they need from them. So as a step-parent, you are no different than every other person in a teenagers life. Once I accepted this and no longer took it personal, I understood and felt better. It also helped me re-define by role a little. I decided to take a step back and stopped being another parent and became more of a listener, someone they can vent on or talk to who will just listen. Advice is given if asked but for the most part the advice they will need will and should come from their parents (with a little influence of you as well). Being that listener and that ear for them is a new great role. Not so easy for me as I am a natural talker so it is a challenge but with every challenge you get to learn so much. There are very few people in our lives who can truly listen and hear us. Teenagers rarely feel that anyone is really listening to them. As a step-parent, this is a role not only beneficial to me but to the kids and the entire family as well. There is much talk nowadays that teenagers are under a lot of stress, why not be that ear for them, someone who can truly listen. That is a role they will want in their lives forever.