Step-Parents and Troubled Step-Children

Parenting your own children is challenging enough, but what do you do when you're a step-parent faced with troubled step-children? This question can be a tricky one to answer, because every situation and family is different, but there are some basic things you can do to improve a step-parent/step-child relationship.

Unfortunately, the step-parent stigma still exists today, thanks largely to media portrayal {think Cinderella's wicked step-mother}. The good news is that doesn't mean the stigma is true, nor does it have to be. Look at it this way: step-parents have a unique opportunity to be an advocate for their step-children--another caring adult they can rely on as they grow and mature. How do you accomplish this, especially if your step-children are troubled?

  • Troubled step-children may be grieving for the loss of their parents' marriage, and this can go on for a long time. Allow them the time they need to grieve and the space to do it. Don't put undue expectations on them. They probably won't feel any respect or love for you right away--don't make them feel they have to. If the other parent has died, allow your step-children to talk openly with you about their deceased parent and their feelings. As they can share their feelings with you without fear of judgement or recrimination, your relationship with them will grow.
  • Be sure that you do not talk bad about the other parent in front of the children, ever. Even if the other parent deserves it! You run the risk of alienating your step-children, especially if they feel that you are out to get their Mom or Dad.
  • Teens have said that all they really need is a friend, not another parent. This gives you, the step-parent, an opening into their lives if you take it. Be a friend and a good listener, someone he can rely on to help them and to be objective.
  • Make sure to support your new spouse in whatever co-parenting decisions they make with their ex. Your starring role should be as the best supporting player there ever was. Your step-children will notice and appreciate this, not to mention your spouse!
  • Take the time to develop honesty and trust between you and your step-children. Take an interest in what interests them. If they tell you something, keep it in confidence. As you show them you truly care, they'll develop that trust that is so important in all family relationships, step or not.

If you have a step-child who is really struggling with your blended family, perhaps by acting out against others and/or themselves, seek help. Liahona Academy provides experienced, caring, residential therapy for troubled teens and their families.

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