Teens love to rebel, which can be especially worrisome for stepmoms who feel like their teenager can walk all over them. But don’t sweat, teens will be teens, and the best way to reign in their behavior is to find ways to connect and avoid unnecessary conflict. If you feel like your relationship with your teen could use a friendly boost, try out these 6 tips.
- Don’t Take Things Personally
The first thing to keep in mind is that teens will be more hostile and less forgiving with you than with their dad. This has nothing to do with you, it’s just typical that teens will see your mistakes as character flaws more often than situational slip-ups. For example, if you’re running late to pick them up from school your teen might think, “My stepmom doesn’t care about me” and won’t consider external factors like traffic that could be affecting you. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, so don’t let your teen’s resentment keep you down. You might want to try letting any hostility pass so you can move on, and the best way to do that is to not take things personally.
- Be a Relationship Role Model
Another great way to connect with your teen is to demonstrate positive values to earn their respect. This is especially true when it comes to modeling a healthy relationship. If you end up lying to, cheating on, or manipulating your spouse or others, your teen will take notice and come to expect that relationships in general aren’t all that great. They will feel less inclined to engage with you, and might expect less from their own relationships. We suggest teaching your teen the important values of trust, respect, and communication in a relationship by exhibiting them with your spouse, so your teen feels comfortable talking to you about their own relationships.
- Practice Unconditional Love and Forgiveness
This next tip can be especially hard for stepmoms of teens, but as a parent, it’s critical that you love your stepchild no matter what. Your teen might fight with you, rebel against your wishes, or shut down in conversations, but such behavior can be normal in any family. The important thing is to be forgiving in all situations. It might take some time, but if you show your consistent love and support for your teen, even when they don’t feel like connecting, they will eventually come around and learn that they can rely on you. They will need your help someday, and teens who can’t express themselves are more likely to engage in risky behavior, so it’s crucial to prove that you’re ready to support them in any situation.
- Don’t Be Controlling
We when advise not to control your teen, we mean remember to take a step back as teens need to learn how to be individuals. They hate the idea of an overseeing parent and might show increased defiance the more your try to manage them. We suggest that you let them make mistakes and learn valuable lessons through experience. We also think you should let them come to you, instead of going out of your way to pry into their lives or solve their problems. When you want to get involved and help out on a personal level, find creative ways to connect such as sharing a fun activity together so their guard is down and they will be more receptive to your advice. If you attempt to help them by lecturing, there’s a good chance they’ll exhibit the opposite of your recommendation.
- Don’t Compete with Your Teens for Your Spouse’s Resources
A lot of conflict that can arise between teens and stepmoms revolves around who gets the most attention from dad. We recommend that you allow your spouse to give their time and money to their teen first. Financing for your teen’s school or new car might mean less vacation opportunities for you and your spouse, but we think you should expect this situation and try not to make a point of contention. Likewise, your spouse needs to be there for your teen’s school dances, sporting events, or musical performances, which might mean less dates and one-on-one time with you. We advise that you recognize how much attention teens need to be successful, and that once they go off to college, your spouse will be able to spend more time and money on your relationship. Being able to put your teen first will reduce competition in the household and boost your ability to bond.
- Be on The Same Page with Spouse for What’s Acceptable
We highly recommend that you establish consistent parenting rules with your spouse. You don’t want to be in a situation where you say “no” and he says “yes,” or vice versa. Remember, you’re a parenting team and you don’t want to give your teen room to pick sides and be divisive. This can be very detrimental to building a healthy relationship. We think it might be better for your spouse to lead the conversation in deciding what is acceptable for your teen merely because he has been parenting your stepchild for longer and might have more insight on what guidelines would be acceptable. Regardless of what decisions you make as parents, the most important thing is to agree, so your teen comes to expect the same consequences from both of you. When your teen finds that you’re being fair, they will be more likely to connect and respect you as a parent.
Connection Takes Time
But you’re sure to speed up the bonding process with your stepchild if you use these 6 tips. It’s all about finding ways to build your relationship, even when your teen doesn’t want to listen to you. Demonstrate that you will always be there for them, but you aren’t trying to run their life. We promise, they’ll come around sooner or later.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.