Helping Teens Adjust to a New Step Family
Teenagers can find it tricky to adjust to a new stepfamily and often need the help and support of their families to handle the assorted challenges. The teenage years can be turbulent, even without changes to their basic family unit, but when they are expected to find a way to fit in with a group of new family members, it can be especially difficult. Parents and stepparents can take comfort in knowing that their love and support can make their teenagers more comfortable as they help them to bond with their blended family.
Asking Teenagers for their InputNo two teens are exactly alike, so their individual needs are sure to vary a bit. One of the best ways to provide teenagers with the support that they need is to ask them about their feelings. Some kids are naturally social and find it easy to connect with people, but others are more reserved and may have a hard time opening up to new people. Parents need to take each teen’s personality into consideration when making decisions that will affect the family. Letting teenagers have some input, especially in matters that impact their daily lives, such as room-sharing, curfews, house rules, and chore assignments, can make it easier for them to adjust to their new living arrangements. Even in the best situation, teens will take a bit of time to make the adjustment, so parents should try to be patient as all family members learn to live together peacefully.
Giving Teens their SpaceMost teenagers need a bit of personal space, both literally and figuratively, so when it is possible, it can help to give teenage children their own bedrooms. If space limitations require that teens share sleeping space with other children, care should be taken to dole out room assignments based on the kids’ comfort levels with one another. Having even a small space that they can claim as exclusively theirs can help teens to better make the adjustments required when families blend.
In addition to physical space, teenagers often express the desire to have a little emotional space. The teen years are often marked by great changes and the challenges associated with surging hormones, physical development, peer relationships, academic pressures, and parental expectations can make it hard for teens to sort out their conflicting emotions, so many take a step back from their parents in order to find space to think for themselves. Unless they exhibit symptoms that suggest that they may not be coping well with their problems, teenagers should be afforded a bit of latitude as they sort themselves out.
Sharing Hobbies with TeenagersMany parents find that as their children enter their teenage years, the kids become more distant, keeping their thoughts and feelings to themselves. It can be hard for parents when their previously chatty children suddenly close themselves off and choose friends, rather than family, to be their support system.
One of the best ways to get teens to open up is to engage them in shared activities, where conversation can be easier and more relaxed. Seasoned parents will tell you that even the most sullen and silent teenagers tend to let their guards down a bit when they are having fun and don’t feel as though they are being put on the spot, so it’s well worth the effort to find hobbies or other activities that stepparents can do with their stepchildren. Both generations will benefit from the extended, one-on-one bonding time.
Using Respectful Authority with TeensTeenagers may resent the idea that their stepparents are in a position to tell them what to do, but teens need guidance from the important adults in their lives and when caring stepparents are in the picture, the kids need to accept their stepparent's place in the family. Most teenagers respond far better to respectful requests for compliance than they do to receiving outright instruction, so treating them with consideration and appreciation is the best way to gain their cooperation. When younger siblings and step-siblings are in the household, it can help for parents to seek their teenager’s support in setting a good example for the littler ones, which in turn, makes the teens easier to manage, too.
Of course, if teenagers expect to be included in decisions regarding the expectations that their parent's and stepparent's have for them, the kids need to behave in a mature fashion. If they prove that they cannot be trusted to make good decisions, they leave their parent's no choice but to repeal their privileges until they learn to make better choices for themselves. While everyone needs and deserves some time to adjust, parents should not allow their children or teenager's to forget their manners as they make the transition.