Blending families with teenagers is an exciting and scary time. It’s undeniably challenging to bring together parts of two families into one household, but children are the ones who generally have the hardest time. In the US in particular there has been a rise in single-parent, unmarried, and blended family households. While younger children may have an easier time adjusting, young teenagers and adolescents can find it more challenging to accept a new person (or people) into their family. Here are some of the ways you can help your teenager make a healthy transition into your new blended family dynamic.
1. Avoid the blame game when blending families with teenagers
Younger teens often will often identify the new family or step-parent as the cause of the breakup, and turn the step-parent into a villain. To avoid this, be honest and upfront about the reasons that you and your ex-spouse are no longer in a relationship.
2. Communicate new family dynamics
Teenagers may find it harder than younger children to accept a new parent or learn to trust a new family dynamic after the dissolution of their old family. Reassure your child regularly that no matter what happens, you are there for them. Be clear about the role your ex-spouse will have in their life, and help them find ways to connect with your new spouse.
3. Discuss new routines and expectations
Teenagers are more set in their ways than younger children and can be resentful of any new boundaries or routines. Make sure you discuss with your new spouse what the expectations are around parenting or disciplining your teen, and make sure your teen is also clear on how the new relationship is supposed to work. Check in regularly with your teen and your spouse to make sure you can address any problems before they escalate.
4. Teens need time to adjust to blended families
Teenagers will need time and space to adjust to the new blended family. Give them the information and the emotional tools to deal with the situation, and then give them space to accept the change on their own terms. You’ll need to check in regularly, but letting them process things in their own time can benefit the transition.
5. Teens still need attention and affection
They may not be as affectionate or emotionally expressive as they used to be when they were little, but it’s so important to realize that teens still need your attention & affection. Assuring them that you are always willing to provide these things can help to ease the transition to the new family dynamic.
There is no doubt that blending families with teenage children can be challenging. But with time and constant commitment (and possibly family therapy), your blended family can learn to live together in a loving and supportive way.
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