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Easing the Transition into Step-parenthood of a Teen

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Entering into a remarriage can be easier than learning how marriage works for the first time. You gained years of experience on how to be in a relationship and how to ensure your needs and the needs of your spouse are being met, even though the relationship ultimately didn’t survive. There are also challenges unique to remarriage, such as if you or your new spouse has children from a previous relationship. Forging a bond with your spouse’s child may not be easy, especially if that child is in their teen years. Read on for suggestions on how to approach forming a relationship with your new teenaged stepchild.

Avoid taking it personally

Teenagers are unlikely to tell you what a hard time they’re going through and how vulnerable or scared they feel after their parents’ divorce, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Their parents’ divorce may be the most challenging personal issue that your teenaged stepchild has ever faced. With you as the interloper in their family, your stepchildren may see you as an easy target for their anger or resentment over the breakup of their family. Try not to take these moments personally, allowing them space to vent, process, and grieve the end of the family life they knew. That said, insist that everyone in the household be treated with respect and civility—even you.

Allow bonding to happen naturally

Some stepparents take a very proactive approach to fostering a relationship with their teenaged stepkids, organizing “bonding” activities that can feel forced and insincere to a teen. There’s nothing a teen abhors more than someone who is visibly trying too hard to endear themselves. Instead of manufacturing opportunities to connect, allow them to arise more naturally. If you notice that your stepchild likes a show or movie that you like, bring it up casually. If your teen has a favorite hobby or interest, try to get them to tell you more about it by asking questions that show your sincere interest and respect for their knowledge.

Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page

Not every stepfamily will look the same. Once children have reached their teen years, many stepfamilies prefer to allow the child’s biological parents to do the heavy lifting of parenthood, such as making significant decisions or imposing discipline. Some stepparents may not play the role of parent in their stepchild’s life, and you don’t want to assume that you will in yours. Speak with your spouse about how they envision that your family will work after the marriage, how much of a role you’ll take in their child’s life, and what an ideal home life looks like to both of you.

If you’re planning to remarry in New York, find out more about estate planning, prenuptial agreements, custodial arrangements, and other important legal issues by contacting the Hudson Valley family law attorneys at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP for a consultation, in Marlboro at 845-236-4411, and in Kingston at 845-331-4100.

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