Step-families and teenagers


It's hard enough parenting teenagers - or being a teenager, come to that - in any family. But if you're in a step-family set-up, it ups the ante even further.

"I'm a step-parent and I reckon living with teenagers can be hard enough for birth parents, let alone someone who has had to work to build a relationship with a child," says one Mumsnetter.

Adolescence is all about finding families wanting. And if yours is a step-family, there are likely to be a lot more sensitivities than in a nuclear family. And teenagers, of course, love to play parents off against one another. So a family in which the parents are already estranged gives them oodles of scope to do that and can make parenting especially challenging.

Empathise - and have realistic expectations

What can you do? As ever, try to see things from the child's point of view - and don't forget how great his or her need is for good parenting.

  • Don't expect to morph into The Waltons. It's just not going to happen. Accept that you can't force your child into loving or even liking a step-parent or a step-sibling. Good relationships are always built over time, so give it time, and don't expect too much, too soon.
  • Be honest about the past, and the future. Make sure your teenager knows - be very, very clear about this - that he or she wasn't to blame for your marriage split.
  • Make sure your teen isn't feeling ignored and left out, especially if you and your ex now have new partners, and maybe more children in your new relationships.
  • Parents always feel guilty; and divorced parents have a deeper seam of guilt. But don't let this override the importance of firm parenting. In other words, don't let your teenager have everything she or he wants, just so you feel less bad about having split up with your partner.

"Teenagers have physical brain changes that make it difficult for them  to view anything from other than a self -centred point of view. They  will grow out of it and be perfectly lovely when they are older. Be  there for them in the interim" Amylyons

If you need advice, chat to other parents who know what you're facing in our Step-parenting Talk forum.


Last updated: almost 6 years ago