Hope for Other Mothers: Step-parenting Teens

Here are four important principles to make your role as a stepmother less painful and more effective.

Nearly 30% of children in the United States live in blended families. If you are an Other Mother of teenagers, your job as a parent can feel exhausting and hopeless. Your teenager may compare you to their biological mother, create conflict between you and their father, and say, “You’re not my real mom and you can’t tell me what to do!” Step-parenting a teenager is like asking you to swim laps without arms or put out a fire with just a spoonful of water. Whether your teenager’s biological mother is gracious or completely awful, your spouse is supportive or distant, and your teen is a nightmare or an embarrassment, there is hope!

Here are four important principles that will go a long way towards making your task as an Other Mother less painful and more effective.

Reduce the adult confusion.

Blended families struggle with an overdose of confusion in the parenting department, and the first order of business is to get on the same page as your spouse. Talk about the roles you each want to play as parents and the complications you each face based on your ex’s and your teen. If your spouse supports your parenting ideas and backs you up when there’s conflict, you’ve got a bonus! But that kind of support may not happen in many families. Perhaps the best place to start is to ask, “What situations would you prefer I simply stay out of?”
If your spouse is not willing to sit down and have a serious discussion about parenting issues, it might be time to pull in some outside help. Often men who can’t hear you can hear the exact same message delivered by a coach or counselor.

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Reduce your teen’s confusion.

Your teenager is in an uncomfortable position. They are trying to find a way to adjust to having an Other Mother, making comparisons, wondering where they fit now in the affection of their father. They may have a hard time going back and forth between two families with different rules and expectations. If you’ve agreed with your partner on what the expectations are with your teen, be proactive in communicating those expectations clearly. Anticipate some acting out, anger or depression. But don’t expect your teen to be able to read your mind or already know how you want to be treated. You can help your teen let go of their confusion by steadily communicating your role and expectations clearly, then allowing them the grace to take time to adjust.

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