Step-parenting with teens is not easy but guess what, anyone parenting teens will admit it’s not easy. Step-parents often find that dealing with their teenaged step-children is difficult – perhaps more difficult than that of the biological parent.
Well step-parents, today I will tell you that this is not the case. You are among all of your peers, both step-parents and bio-parents, in the struggle of raising a teen.
I admit that the teen/step-parent dynamic is different than the parent/teen dynamic, however the way a teen responds to most adults during these years is pretty consistent. So rest assured that when they roll their eyes, huff in their breath, pout, and push you to a distance, it is not unique to you; they are that way with most adults.
Every parent or step-parent relationship with your teen will be different, however here are 2 tips I have used when approaching with my teenage step-kids:
Connecting with them. Something that I have done which has proven to be successful is take them out on their own. This can mean taking them out with their siblings if they have any, or sometimes just you and them individually. Do something together that they enjoy. If you are not close with them it might feel awkward at first, but push past the awkwardness and continue. It may take time and a few tries, but they will notice your efforts in their own way and trust me when I say it will have an impact on them.
If you are close to your step-kids then doing this will just continue to solidify your relationship.This is a great opportunity to talk to them freely as well, which leads me to the second tip…honest communication.
Honest communication with teens is imperative. Teenagers have a nose like a hound and can sniff out bullshit better than anyone. It’s funny, we think they are closed to all feelings and senses but as science has shown us, when one sense is reduced another one is heightened. A teenager can sense disingenuous behaviours and feelings, and will sniff it out before you can finish a sentence. They, just like everyone else, want honesty. Be open with them, talk to them about things that matter to them; friends, relationships, sports, clothes, school, jobs etc. The more you open up to them, the more they will open up to you. The other day my almost 14 year old step-daughter and I were talking about children, just random things about them as we were going to the beach with our dog and I told her about the difficulty I had conceiving a child so that I never ended up having a child of my own and how that affected me both positively and negatively. The conversation flowed naturally during the course of what we were talking about. It left me open and vulnerable and she sat and listened and afterwards said “we are family and like your kids”. It was a simple statement from such a big topic. To me and to her as well, it couldn’t get any clearer than that and we connected. By me opening up and having a real conversation with her, she then opened up and told me about her feelings about her siblings and where she fits in our family dynamic. It was a great insight as to who she is and how she is growing and thinking. The key is that I was honest in my conversation and she felt like a grown up and therefore we had a grownup conversation. I could have shied away from that conversation as it is not an easy one to have with a 14 year old but it was honest and with honesty there is clarity, openness and freedom. Teenagers are drawn to all of those things so the more it can happen the closer you will get to them.
Honesty may not always end up so positive. However, being honest will lead to discussions, negotiations and resolutions. Being honest about things often provides clarity and more than anything, teenagers need adults to be clear. They actually don’t have the capacity yet to think in abstract or the convoluted ways adults do so clarity is their best friend. And if honesty brings clarity, they will appreciate you even if it ends up on a sour note.
So to all step-parents and parents out there, don’t stress that your step-kids or kids seem to hate you, as long as you continue to show love, respect, are honest with them and make continued efforts to connect with them, even if they look bored and irritated, they will appreciate and love you back. The teenage years are a journey, usually through a dark abyss, but be consistent and open and they eventually come back into the light and will look at you with love and appreciation. Yes, even you step-parents, even you.