When you marry into a family and inherit teenage stepchildren, you will encounter a different set of challenges than if you marry into a family with younger children. Older children, particularly tweens and teens, are already struggling to establish an identity of their own and establish a place within the family that is more concrete and individual. When you come along as stepparent and rock the boat, it can cause a great deal of stress for the teen.
One thing to realize when becoming a stepparent to a teenager is that the more you can respect him or her as an individual and the better you are able to treat him or her like a person separate from the biological parent you have married, the more likely you will be to gain his or her respect.
Talk to and treat your teen stepchild the way you wish to be treated and talked to. Teens, biological and step alike, are notorious for being experts at making adults lose their otherwise even tempers, but the better you are able to remain calm or even walk away when you have to, the easier you will be able to manage a real relationship with your teen stepchild.
You have a real opportunity with your step children to develop the relationship that will take them into adulthood. Teens struggle with so many things — peer pressure, future life, self-esteem, school — that another positive role model in their lives can be very helpful. However, most teens will initially feel threatened by your presence, so be straight with them. Let them know that you respect them and aren’t there to interfere, that you want to be a part of their lives but that you don’t expect them to think of you as Mom or Dad.
Don’t try to win their admiration by being the “cool” parent who provides alcohol or lets them get away with everything. Be clear about supporting the expectations of the household, but be there, too. Be patient and allow the relationship to build slowly. Step parents are often the “safest” people teens have to talk to — and they may turn to you for advice on everything from relationships to school problems if you give them the chance.