Raising a teenager is, and always has been, a challenge; in their growth to adulthood, children need to establish themselves as competent individuals and must achieve independence. This natural drive to pull away from parental control is a good thing, because it is how children learn to function in an adult world, capable of making their own decisions and having the tools to build a meaningful life for themselves, As the parent of a teenager, it is your responsibility to give them enough freedom to practice adult skills, and enough structure to practice them in a safe and loving environment. Once we accept that having a teenager in the house is going to be a challenge, it gets easier.
The teenage challenge for a blended family
However, when we add a step parent and perhaps step siblings and a new baby to the mix, we must also accept that raising a teenager will probably get even more challenging. The older a step kid in a blended family is, the more difficult it is for them to accept a step parent and the entire blended family dynamic. Again, once we acknowledge and accept the situation for what it is, it can get easier as well. But it takes work. Do not be too judgmental of your new spouse if he or she finds being a step parent to a disagreeable teenager off-putting, and outright dislikes your teenager. Do not be too impatient with your teenager if he or she rails at each and every thing their step parent says or does, and balks at all your attempts to reconcile them.
Blended family reality
A blended family is often wrought with feelings of loss, betrayal, mixed loyalties, wildly differing parenting and discipline belief systems, suspicion, anger, fear, and sadness by step kids and step parents especially. Building a successful blended family takes understanding, empathy, communication, patience, love, and a good amount of faith. When teenagers and step parents do not get along, issues can easily escalate into shouting matches, hurtful words, slammed doors, over zealously applied discipline, and a host of other unacceptable responses. Teenage step kids and step parents can often have a particularly discordant relationship, making an already challenging adolescent developmental period even more difficult.
As a biological parent, your primary responsibility is to nurture and protect your child. As a parent in a blended family, your primary responsibility is to create a setting in which the entire blended family can prosper in security and love. Absolutely essential to meeting each of these obligations is to insist upon an environment of mutual respect. Name calling, shouting, derisive or sarcastic remarks, abusive comments or behaviors are not appropriate. It is important to have, and to enforce, a blended family behavior code. Violence of any kind should never be tolerated, under any circumstances. Seek outside counseling if you are concerned at the level of incompatibility or if violence is an issue.
Blended family behavior code
Before you and your spouse bring the blended family together under one roof, you should have a serious discussion about how you plan to manage your blended family. With the acknowledgment that your plans will need to be revised from time to time, it is vital that you are both on the same page at the outset. If and when adjustments to parenting or disciplinary arrangements need to be addressed, remember that this discussion should be a private one; always show a united front to demonstrate your commitment to each other and to the blended family itself. When you disagree, or when you approach a new set of circumstances to wade through, talk first in private.
Raising a teenager in a blended family environment can be challenging, to be sure. A blended family in and of itself is a challenge. To make it all work as harmoniously as possible, remember the basics: understanding, empathy, communication, patience, love, and a good amount of faith. It is hard work, but worth the effort.