Step-teens !! – a word that can induce a whole series of cold showers to run down one’s back, can make one’s hair stand on end and put one’s teeth on edge. Believe me I know, I’ve been there. Twice I’ve walked through this stage with my stepchildren, twice with my biological kids….and, although I wondered about my ability to get through it on a number of occasions throughout those years…I have survived. It’s by much trial and error that I’ve gained the following insights:
* Know that your step-teens don’t REALLY hate you – they are going through a particularly rough developmental stage when they hate just about anyone, mostly themselves.
* If your step-teens exhibit rapid mood changes don’t twist yourself into a pretzel trying to figure out what you’ve done wrong – being on an emotional roller coast ride it’s simply part of their teen experience.
* Step-teens developmental tasks are to break away from the known (their family) and to find their own identity – so, if they prefer to “hang” with their friends and to talk for hours (and hours and hours) on the telephone rather than joining in the family fun, be assured your neighbour’s bio-teens are doing exactly the same, and they don’t have a step mum/dad.
* Be assured that despite their sullen facial expression, they grin internally when you pay them a compliment (I know that it could be mighty difficult to find something to compliment them on, but I’d encourage you to try…hard!)
* Recognise that despite their responding grunts (as opposed to understandable words) they actually listen to what you say, provided you’ve listened to them first and have responded in a non-judgmental way.
* Although you’d never know it (well, not for the next 5 or so years), your step-teens love being asked their opinion and are much more likely to accept yours if you’ve first done them the courtesy to acknowledge theirs.
* Your step-teens feel 10 feet tall (and develop enormous respect for you) if you treat them with respect even at the times, when you feel that they deserve anything but respect.
* Be aware that you create a bond if you are honest by letting them know that you are not finding this easy either and are willing to share your thoughts, feelings and concerns (without blaming them).
* You’ll ensure their trust if you keep their confidences.
* If you can exhibit patience, kindness and a genuine desire to connect with and to understand your step-teen and don’t get too phased by the various hurdles encountered along that path, you’ll probably make a friend for life.
I am not suggesting that the implementation of these tips is an easy task. I am, however, saying that they make life a lot easier not just for your step-teens, but also for YOU…and believe me, they do pay off in the end.
Good luck - Sonja