Being a step-parent to a teenager is extremely difficult indeed and my heart goes out to all of you who are reading this. The relationship between teenager and step-parent is a fine and delicate balance, one that must be maintained and nurtured at all times.
However, it does not have to be a painful experience and with a little forethought, planning and a lot of patience you can make the situation better.
Remember, it is likely as difficult for the child or teen as it is for you. They have been living a certain way for a certain amount of time and all of a sudden, things are going to change and no one really likes change. Step parents tend to be either too soft or too hard and for me, I think you have to sit somewhere in the middle. You are not their parent and you are not their friend, you are something else, and this is where the problems can start.
Stop thinking of yourself and your step child as opponents and start to think of yourselves as a team. When you can view the situation like this rather than worrying about what you are going to do with this child, things will start to make more sense. When new teams are put together they all have problems; it is normal. Sit down as a family and decide the new rules of the team; discuss where you think it could go wrong and how you are going to handle it. Come to a set of very clear agreements that together, you can stick to. The chances are, you all really want the same thing, so how can the two of you work together to achieve what you both want? After all, two heads are better than one, right?
Sit down with your partner and make a list of what is important to both of you, how you are going to act as parents together and how you are going to deal with your teenager. Make sure that you are both heading in the same direction. Discuss your list with your teenager and ask for their cooperation. Discuss what each item requires and what any consequences will be. The worst thing that can happen in this situation is when you both fail to show a united front when it comes to dealing with this particular child.
Yes, you are allowed to make a list of what you want and begin to ask for it. Acknowledge that you have a place in the house too, even though others may feel slightly uncomfortable with you. Often, step parents can put everyone else’s needs before their own and then feel resentful. Remember however to tread carefully and ask others what they need too.
Step children can be the worst at making you feel really bad at what you do and quite often, step parents can feel really disillusioned. Get those gremlins out in the open and as a step parent, you will have many! What are you telling yourself? Bring your story out in the open, meet those gremlins head on and acknowledge them. Write out the whole story and read it every day for a week. Believe me, you will get so bored of it that you will eventually find the whole thing funny.
There can be so many emotions tied in with step parenting and we can take things so personally. When your step child appears to be winning the battle, take control of the situation and start to take charge. Find a different perspective, an objective view of the situation. Divide a piece of a paper into two; on one side write the facts and on the other write your feelings. Now make a decision to begin to deal with the facts one by one, the smallest first.
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