Be the ultimate step-parent

a woman and teenager stand in a kitchen talking

This can help if:

  • you want to become a great step-parent

  • you're worried where to start your relationship with your stepchild

  • you've never parented a teen before.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to step parenting, it can be hard to know where to start. Each teen is obviously different, so getting to know them better will help you tailor your step-parenting style to suit them.

Teenagers in this situation will also be going through all sorts of emotions—the usual teenage ones and adjusting to a new family structure. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster, but sticking it out and being there for them will help set things up for a great relationship down the track.

How do I build a good relationship with my stepchild?

Those first few years when you come into their lives are crucial. It’s when you set the tone for what your relationship together will look like. Try to meet them where they’re at. Although you might be keen, if it’s taking them a little while to warm up to you, try not to pressure them too much. It can backfire in a major way, and they might start trying to avoid you or not wanting to spend time with you.

Quality not quantity is definitely the go. It might be less pressure on both of you to start spending time as part of the family or doing a group activity. Looking up the gym timetable together or going to a site like Eventbrite or Nabo to find some local events can be a great get-to-know-you.

Something without too much forced face-time, like going to the shops or movies is also good, and you could do some recon first by going on sites like Lasoo to scope local specials. You can then move on to spend time one on one doing things they enjoy that helps you get to know each other more. You could ask them about hobbies, what they do with their friends, TV series or movies they like. Finding a series on Netflix that you can binge watch together can create something special that you both share.

Take time to listen to any worries or concerns they have and work on them together to come-up with a good solution. Everyone wants to feel heard, so paying attention when they are talking about their life and attending important events, like school concerts, sports carnivals and family events will mean a lot.

What might a come up against as a step-parent?

Some of the issues teens might struggle with could be:

  • Worrying that you're out to replace their parent - You can reassure them that's not your goal. Step-parenting is an entirely different role to play, and while going through a separation is tough, having a step-parent can add a lot to their lives too.

  • Adjusting to new rules and boundaries - Chat to your partner to get on the same page. The more you can roll with the times and be flexible as your stepchild gets older, the happier (and more peaceful!) family life will be.

  • Communication - Keep the lines open, and check-in with your stepchild about how they are tracking. People are pretty good at making it obvious when they're not happy - and that's a good thing. Take it as a chance to chat things through.

Help, I've never parented a teen before!

Luckily, the tips are pretty much all the same as they are for people who have parented teens before. But there is a little bit of extra homework for you.

  • Read up on teenagers and the sorts of experiences they're likely to be going through. You can explore ReachOut Parents to get a good sense of this.

  • Reflect on what type of parent you'd like to be. Write down 3 things that would make you a good parent and a way you can make it happen with your relationship with your stepchild.

  • Get the lowdown from your parnter. At the end of the day they'll have the best insight into what works and what doesn't with their teen.

  • Talk to friends that have parented teens and collect their number 1 tips. Sharing is caring!