One in every three Americans is a member of a stepfamily. Raising teenagers isn’t easy, even in a so-called “traditional” home where the teen lives with his or her married, biological parents, and it can take extra work to forge a meaningful, loving bond with a teen who is your stepchild. If you’re marrying someone who has teenaged children from a prior relationship, you may be nervous about how to make this relationship a peaceful, functioning, even happy, one. Below, you’ll find some suggested approaches to developing a good relationship with your new teenaged stepchild.
- Don’t force the feeling.
Teens can smell effort from a mile away. If you seem inauthentic in your enthusiasm, or like you’re trying to force a bond between yourself and your stepchild, they’ll likely run in the other direction. Allow you and your stepchild to develop a bond naturally rather than coming on too strong or manufacturing opportunities to bond. By being a consistently loving, kind, and caring presence over the course of months or years, you’ll prove that you’re worthy of their trust.
- Speak with your spouse about how your family will look.
Each stepfamily is unique. Some stepparents take a prominent role in their stepchildren’s lives. When children are older, some stepparents will instead defer to their child’s biological parents and have a more casual relationship with their stepchild. Make sure that you and your spouse agree on what your ideal is for how the household would look and feel, and the role you’ll play in your stepchild’s life.
- It isn’t personal
Your teenage stepchild may be very skeptical of you at first, possibly even using you as a target for their sadness and anger over the end of their parents’ marriage. This sort of treatment can be hurtful and stressful. However, keep in mind that, even if they may not admit it, your teenaged stepchild is going through an extremely difficult time. They may feel scared and resentful about the dissolution of the family life they once knew. They may need time before they’ll be willing to accept and embrace their new family, and allowing them the space to grieve without pressuring them to move on and be happy will make both your lives easier.
If you’re facing a major change in your family life in New Jersey, such as a remarriage, divorce, change in custody, or adoption, and have legal questions about your rights and responsibilities, contact the compassionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable Englewood family law attorneys at Herbert & Weiss for a consultation, at (201) 500-2151.