Raising Stepchildren

How to Live With Difficult Teenage Step Children

Talk to your spouse about any of the struggles you experience with his children. Creating a united front to handle problems can relieve some of the tension you feel, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your spouse does not stand up for you or speak to his children if they are treating you poorly, their treatment may continue.

Make an effort to get to know your spouse's children. Spending time together on activities that you both enjoy may help you bond, according to KidsHealth. A common interest can also give you and your teenage stepchildren something to talk about together. Keep the initial hang-outs brief and give your stepchildren distance if they need it.

Move slowly when getting to know your stepchildren. Teenagers tend to be less receptive of a new stepparent than younger children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If they say something offensive to you, you might say, "I'm sorry that you feel that way about me. Maybe as we get to know one another better, things will change," before leaving the room. Keeping calm and defusing a potential fight can lead to a more satisfying relationship with your stepchildren later on, according to PBS Parents.

Maintain a positive relationship with the other parent of your stepchildren, and avoid saying anything negative about her. Showing that you respect both of their parents may help teenage stepchildren appreciate you, according to PBS Parents.

Give your stepchildren some control over their environment. If someone is unhappy about the household or struggling to adjust to the new living arrangements, a family meeting can help everyone air their concerns and reach a solution, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Showing that you are concerned about the well-being of everyone in the family may go a long way in preventing a power struggle.

Realize that you may never love your stepchildren and they may never love you, but you can still have a happy and fruitful blended family, according to PBS Kids. Treating each other with respect and civility despite your feelings can keep everything functioning smoothly.

Tip

Encourage your spouse to talk to her children if you suspect that your stepchildren are still recovering emotionally from their parents' divorce. Your stepchildren may treat you poorly because they are still upset about their parents' break-up.

How to Deal With a Mean-Spirited Stepchild

Talk to the child about competing loyalties. Your stepchild might not want to like you because he may feel in doing so he would be choosing you over his absent biological parent, according to the Stepfamily Foundation. Tell your stepchild, and show through your actions, that you are not trying to replace his mother or take over her role. Understanding your intentions might minimize the mean in your stepchild.

Grow thick skin. When a stepchild, or any child, hurls insults at you or ignores you, it's natural to have some hurt feelings. It will help you to not take this personally, if you understand the rude behavior or snarly attitude is common among new stepchildren, especially in their teen years. If you don't respond to such behavior, your stepchild might back off.

Minimize discipline. You don't want to let your stepchild get away with everything, but leave the strict disciplining to the biological parent. If you become the controlling parent, your stepchild will likely resist and resent you more, only exacerbating the problem, according to "Psychology Today."

Find a way to connect. Look for a shared interest, whether that be playing the piano or video games. Talk to your stepchild about the common interest when he's in the mood for a chat. By seeing you as an ally, your stepchild might change his attitude.

Be a role model. Your instinct might be to respond with an equally poor disposition, but being mean will only make things worse. Be pleasant and polite with your stepchild, even when you're being treated rudely. Your positive attitude may rub off on your stepchild over time.

Treat the children equally. Whether you have biological children, stepchildren or both, treat each child with the same level of respect and hold each child to the same expectations. Even if your stepchild's sole purpose in life seems to be to make you miserable, treating him differently than his other siblings can only make him resent you even more. Give each child respect.

Tip

If the situation doesn't improve, seek family counseling.

Warning

If you suspect there's more to your stepchild's behavior than normal step-family adjustments, speak to a health or mental health professional.

How Teens Can Ruin a Marriage

Parenting Disagreements

Marriages can become stressful if you and your spouse disagree on curfews, discipline and other matters concerning your children. Both of you should discuss your reasoning for various rules and punishments to come to an agreement, according to licensed clinical social worker Robert Taibbi, in an article on the "Psychology Today" website. Learning to compromise is also important, so letting go of some of the battles can go a long way in creating harmony in your marriage. If the teens involved are your stepchildren, ask your spouse about how you should handle discipline and under what circumstances your spouse will intervene.

Sibling Rivalry

Sibling rivalry can leave teenagers in a constant state of bickering, leaving you and your spouse emotionally taxed. The conflict for a parent's love can fuel a contest between teens, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics in an article on sibling rivalry on their website, healthychildren.org. The AAP piece warns that the parents involved should avoid picking sides or getting involved in the conflict, instead encouraging the teens to work it out themselves. Encouraging regular family meetings, and giving the teens advice on how they should approach their problems, may ease tension in your marriage.

Trouble with Stepchildren

Your stepchildren may enjoy challenging you, insulting you or comparing you unfavorably to their now absent-from-the-family-unit parent. Conflict between you and your stepchildren can also create conflict between you and your spouse. Enjoying your stepchild's favorite activities with her, but also leaving time for you and your spouse as a couple, can go a long way in building positive stepfamily relations, according to Taibbi. Your stepchildren may also be angry about their parents' divorce or separation, which may fade with time, the AAP advises.

Additional Information

Solving marriage problems that focus around teenagers is often a group effort. Seeking out marriage counseling for you and your spouse, as well as visiting a family therapist with your teens, may reduce some of the conflict in your home, according to KidsHealth. In stepfamilies, it can also be beneficial to work on building a positive relationship with your stepchild's other parent. Though rebuilding a stressed marriage can take time, the effort may lead to a happier marriage and home life for everyone involved.

How to Get a Stepfather to Accept His Stepchildren

Don't push him to see them as his own children. Wednesday Martin, a social anthropologist, tells The Telegraph that stepfamilies succeed when they don't attempt to be "blended families" and expect the stepparents and children to form a relationship like that of biological parents and children. Instead, Martin says everyone should accept that kids have their own feelings and may prefer their biological parents. Over time, stepfathers and their stepchildren may develop their own relationships.

Establish clear rules. Beverly Bliss, a clinical psychologist in Madison, Wisconsin, says you and your husband need to work out rules for discipline, household chores and other family expectations right from the start. Otherwise, confusion and disagreement over these issues can breed resentment between you and your husband and between him and your children.

Help him understand not to take any behavior personally. Bliss says many children act out toward their stepparents, especially when they start to have positive feelings for them. They may think that loving their stepfather means that they don't love their biological father. It is important to help your husband understand that so he doesn't take the behavior personally and become resentful.

Give it time. All relationships take time to build. It will be no different for a stepfather and his stepchildren. With all the obstacles a stepfather and his stepchildren have to overcome, it could take even longer before they develop a good relationship. Don't push a relationship, and help your husband understand that the relationship may take time so that he does not push too hard or become resentful when a relationship isn't forming.

See a family therapist. Laura Markham, of Aha! Parenting, says a family therapist can help stepfathers and their stepchildren articulate their feelings so they can move past whatever hurt or resentment is keeping them from being close and begin to build a bridge.

How to Be Authoritative With Teen Stepchildren

Engage your stepchild, advises Focus on the Family, a website designed to help families grow and thrive. The key to being an authoritative stepparent is to be involved in your stepchild’s life. This includes her interests, her hobbies, her friendships and her school life. Being involved means going to her softball games and showing up for parent meetings at school. Being engaged means talking to her about her life and what interests her in a way that shows you are genuinely interested and not just nosy. You can offer to take her shopping for her upcoming dance, but don’t pry her for information on her date; wait for her to bring that up and take her lead.

Discipline your stepchildren accordingly if you want to be an authoritative parent, advises Ronald L. Pitzer, a professor of social work at the University of Minnesota. Make sure you and your spouse discuss the rules and consequences of breaking those rules with the kids and ensure you discipline them accordingly when the rules are broken. If your stepson breaks curfew, enforce the discipline that goes with breaking curfew, such as grounding him for the remainder of the weekend. When you are consistent in enforcing the rules, your stepchildren learn that you mean business and are less likely to break the rules. Failing to apply the consequences when the rules are broken is not authoritative parenting, it is permissive parenting.

Treat your stepchild with love and affection, advises Pitzer. The role of an authoritative parent includes a good balance of discipline and high expectations and love and affection. Without love and affection, the authoritative parent becomes a controlling parent, which leaves teens feeling unattached and causes potential behavior problems. When you respond to your stepchild’s needs with care and concern, it shows you respect her, which is more likely to make her respect you in return. This supportive, accepting behavior helps to build her self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, knowing she is accepted and loved by you helps her understand that when you do discipline her, it’s coming from a place of love and concern rather than spite and hatred.

A Blended Family: Parenting As a Team

Take it Slow

When blending two families, the biggest mistake parents make is rushing to make the family feel like they imagined "The Brady Bunch" was. They need to let it unfold naturally. You cannot force relationships, especially with children. Even before moving the once-separate families under the same roof, adults can choose to take the relationship with their stepchildren slow. Work on making your marriage strong, which will form the core of the new, blended family. A new family dynamic will form in its own time.

House Rules

Before entering the war zone of setting rules and boundaries in the home, parents of blended families should sit down together behind closed doors to determine their mutual goals and expectations. A unified front as the heads of the household will go far when dealing with children and stepchildren and give a sense of security to the kids. In the beginning of the second marriage, it is generally more effective if the biological parent does the disciplining with the support of the spouse. The home will run more smoothly when each family member understands his role and responsibilities.

No Bashing Rule

Forming a blended family does not eliminate biological parents who might still be involved in their children’s lives. As a couple, help each other to not bash a child’s other parent, and bite your tongue when necessary. According to HealthyChildren.org, kids tend to show intense loyalty to their biological parents, and insulting them will alienate you as parents, creating resistance to bonding as a new family.

Alone Time

Blending families can be emotional and draining to your relationship. Keep your marriage strong and unified by continuing to date your spouse. Regularly schedule time together -- go out to dinner, see the latest movie or head to the nearest hotel for a romantic evening. Kids Health recommends keeping the lines of communication open to keep problems from festering. A couple who remain connected make an enduring parenting team.