A Blended Family: Becoming a Stepparent to a Teen

By Leah Brignall

Becoming a stepparent can be a challenge, especially if your new stepchild is an adolescent. With divorce and remarriage being so common, many people go through the process of merging families. This integration can be trying for the parent, the stepparent, and the children. As the stepparent, you are trying to show that you have authority while also wanted acceptance from the child. The parent often has to juggle their attention between their partner and their child. All the while the child is going through a major life change while having to share their parent with this new adult.

Though it may seem impossible during difficult moments, there are ways to work on these relationships to become the most successful blended family you can be. It may be helpful to meet as a family or individually with a therapist who can help build relationships and suggest strategies for moving forward. Dr. Carl Pickhardt explains in this {article} these three “entry strategies” for stepparents to think about trying:

1. Take uncontested time with your stepchildren.
It is easy to become frustrated with each other when both the stepparent and the adolescent are trying to get their own time and attention from the parent. By taking time alone with a child, the stepparent can remove this aspect and focus on building a relationship between themselves and their stepchild.

2. Don’t give more than you can emotionally afford.
Often times a stepparent will feel the need to over give to the child in hopes that they will be accepted. While it is important to give to them, over giving can actually be detrimental to the relationship. When a stepparent exhausts themselves doing this, they can become resentful, especially if they do not get the response they are expecting. A stepparent should not expect the child to be overly grateful or to put as much effort into the relationship.

3. At the beginning, define your authority as doing good.
There may be some blame or anger automatically directed toward the stepparent by the stepchild. Because of this, it can be helpful to make yourself the “good” authority figure. Rewarding good behavior, instead of being the parent to discipline bad behavior, can help a stepparent be seen in a more positive light.