Teenagers can be hard to handle regardless of the family dynamic; however, step-teens often present a double challenge. You are not only dealing with the hormones that surge through their bodies and make them a bit crazy, but you likely also have to work out a relationship with them that does not involve being their mother, but is important. Whether your teen stepchildren live with you or visit on weekends, there are a few things you can do to build a solid relationship with them.
Know Your Place
As tempting as it is to jump in and be the mother to your step teenagers, it is a mistake to do so. Your role is that of stepmother and wife to their father. The teens may feel especially protective of the relationship with their mother now that Dad has moved on. This doesn't mean you should take a hands-off attitude. Be there to listen, help, and generally give them guidance when they come to you for it. Never speak poorly of their mother, even if they encourage you to. It will ultimately backfire at some point. Take the neutral approach and if pressed, maintain that you and she are different types of people and you are glad that you both get to be involved in their lives.
Take Time to Get to Know Them
Friends get to know each other by spending time together. Spending time with your step-teens can accomplish the same thing. Choose activities they enjoy doing and invite them to participate. If they decline initially, don't take it personally. Teenagers are known for their hormone-driven defiance. In fact, you might consider it a compliment, as their defiance may indicate they consider you family and treat you as such. Pushing the issue will most likely backfire, but the occasional invitation to hang out together and do something fun shows your step-teens that you value them.
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk,” suggest using creative communication and avoiding nagging. Notes, answering machine messages and texts are ways you can communicate with your step-teens without having to get in their face. If you need your step-teen do do something, a short text is non-combative and gets your point across. Communication should happen often in person, as well. Let your step-teens know when they have pleased you, or made you proud. Initially, withhold criticism and let your husband handle it for you. As time moves on and they accept you as part of the family, you can start voicing opinions or directives to them.
Insist on Respect
Regardless of your role in the house or your step-teens' attitude toward you, you have a right to be treated with respect. Set up a few family rules that are not negotiable and stick to them. While your husband should handle the actual discipline, grounding, and privilege revocation, you have every right to report to him when the kids break those rules.
Family Meetings Can Work
Family meetings are an ideal way to forge relationships with your step-teens. Use these meetings to really listen to what they are feeling and experiencing. Voice your own concerns, hopes and desires when it comes to blending the family. This is a good time to bring up any issues between you and the step-teens and talk them out.