Teenage girls are sometimes self-centered in the best of situations, but there is no limit to the controversies and complications that may arise when her self-centered choices impact a blended family. Even if you have previously had a pleasant relationship with her, the advent of her teen years might introduce new family dynamics. If you recently got married, your stepdaughter might have an especially difficult time transitioning to the major changes in her life. While it is unlikely you will be her primary disciplinarian, your quality of life should not suffer as a result of her self-centered tendencies.
1 Take a deep breath, keep your sense of humor and step away from emotion-filled situations when possible to gain clarity, suggests Advocates for Youth, a site that helps young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. Distance from the situation might help you realize that her aggravating behavior is a temporary, yet normal, part of teenage development and should not be taken personally. It is unlikely that her focus is on how her self-centered behavior is impacting your life and she might simply be repeating behavior that worked in the past. If her biological parents spoiled her to make up for a bad marriage or she was fortunate to grow up in an affluent home, her self-centered behavior might stem from her overly indulgent upbringing, the American Psychological Association reports.
2 Voice your concerns to your spouse and ask him to address any concerns she may have that could be causing her self-centered behavior. Spousal communication is one of the best ways to improve stepfamily dynamics, according to the University of Missouri Extension. Although you may be relatively new to dealing with the antics of a self-centered teen, your spouse may understand her personality and offer suggestions for improving your relationship. After all, half of her genetic makeup comes from your spouse, so some of her personality traits and coping mechanisms likely mirror your spouse's.
3 Talk to your stepdaughter and find a way to relate to her. Keep an open dialogue about the mundane, everyday details of life, even if she does not seem interested in talking. She might not realize you are hurt by her behavior or act self-centered to gain some control over a living situation that she did not choose. Let her know that you understand how difficult it is to be a teen and you realize living with a stepmother might not be easy. Be sympathetic to her concerns and acknowledge that she might need to mourn the loss of her previous life before she can accept your place in it, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
4 Establish clear expectations for behavior. Let her know that it is unacceptable for her to leave her backpack in front of the door where anyone can trip on it and that she will lose certain privileges if she leaves it there again. You must be willing to compromise on some of your own preferences, according to Brigham Young University’s Forever Families website. If she refuses to make her bed in the morning or put away her laundry but you are a stickler for cleanliness, you and your spouse might suggest she keep her door closed during the day to appease everyone.
- American Psychological Association: The Price of Affluence
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Stepfamily Problems
- Advocates for Youth: Strengthening Family Relationships
- Brigham Young University: Discovering and Building Stepfamily Strengths
- University of Missouri Extension: Foundations for a Successful Stepfamily
- KidsHealth: Stepparents
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images