While challenges may be inherent in the parent-stepparent dynamic, teens can have a particularly difficult time adjusting to a new family. They are more focused on their peers than their younger siblings and more likely to spend time outside the home. But parenting a teenage stepson does not have to be a battleground. An agreement between you and the natural parent beforehand on how to handle possible complications can help diminish conflicts. Before a permanent relationship with the biological parent develops, the child should already feel protected, nurtured and supported. After the union, create an environment where he feels wanted and appreciated.
Building the trust of your stepson will require time and patience. Factors that may block the relationship -- feeling disloyal to the natural parent or resenting you for “upsetting his home” -- may possibly be overcome by introducing activities where just the two of you can participate, if he is comfortable with that. Engage him in conversation and listen attentively when he talks, showing you are interested in what he has to say. Be consistent with the way you treat him, and give consequences for misbehavior according to established household rules.
Communication is the key to how well any family gets along, including step families. Showing love and respect in a non-judgmental way helps to keep conflicts to a minimum. Keep the lines of communication open and create routines that encourage friendly exchanges. Establish an environment where everyone can express himself openly and honestly without fear of reprisal. Discuss family rules so there is no misunderstanding, and -- if possible -- try to be consistent with rules that are already in place for the stepson.
3. Period of Adjustment
Teenage boys are already going through emotional upheavals and asserting themselves; do not come in like a drill sergeant and start laying down rules and regulations. Agree on parenting styles with your spouse prior to blending the family so that he will not resent you for changes in the way he is parented. Be patient; do not expect that all will go well in the beginning. Everyone needs time to adjust. While younger children may adjust more easily than teenagers and be more accepting of your love simply because they need more nurturing, teens need the same love and support.
It will take time and patience for everyone to settle into the new family dynamic. Do not feel rejected if your stepson does not take to you right away. It may take years for him to feel a special bond; in the meantime, relax and accept the current state of affairs, believing cohesion will come about over time. Trying to replace a biological parent in the eyes of the child will probably be met with resistance; instead, see yourself as an adjunct and be content in that role. Be respectful of his feelings and expect that he will reciprocate.
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