Stepmum or Stepmonster? How to bring up teenagers in a step family

Author Eva Jordan

It’s not easy being a parent, especially a parent of teenagers but if you are embarking on such a journey as a step parent then I’d say you’re in for an interesting, and at times, bumpy ride. I know because as a parent and step parent myself, I speak from the voice of experience.

It is just such experiences, along with all those associated with modern day family life, that inspired me to write both my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, and my recently released second novel, All The Colours In Between. Based on a fictional extended family, both novels explore the amusing and sometimes fraught relationship between parents and their teenage children, set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.  

I’ve learned a lot over the years, both as a parent and stepparent. I’ve also carried out in-depth research into better trying to understand the Facebook, tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed universal enigma, otherwise known as the teenager. I’m not an expert, nor do I proclaim to be. I’ve definitely made a few mistakes along the way, both as a parent and step parent, but these are just a few of my tips.  

  1. Who is more important? Making a step family can be reasonably easy; keeping it together on the other hand can be incredibly difficult. If you are embarking on a relationship with someone who has children, or you have children, or, as in my case (and the characters in my books), you both have children, then as an individual you must accept and respect the fact that those children were there before you. Most parents love their children and that kind of love lasts a lifetime – if you can’t accept and support that then you shouldn’t consider having a relationship with someone who has children. 
  1. Step parent or step monster. Adjustment never happens overnight. A stepfamily is a fragile eco system and usually encompasses a great deal of pain, loss and separation. Research suggests older children are more inclined to find it difficult to adjust, although, in early adolescence, boys seem to find it easier than girls – as was my experience. Accept that you will be resented at times – especially when it comes to teenagers. Step parent or natural parent, angst ridden teenagers have a whole set of other social, emotional and cognitive flux going on in their developing brains and bodies, never mind adjusting to new family members and a new way of life. What’s more important is a stable family life, not the structure of the family. 
  1. Kids need boundaries. All children need boundaries; it makes them feel safe and secure. However, at times, those boundaries will be tested, and yes, sometimes that will be due to resentments or insecurities felt within or toward family members, at others it may simply be because your children are teenagers and are responding emotionally rather than rationally to a particular situation. This is perfectly normal. Due to the increase in brain matter, the teen brain becomes more interconnected and gains greater processing power. Teens start to gain the decision-making skills of an adult but sometimes, in the heat of the moment, these skills can be overly influenced by emotions. This is because their brains rely more on the limbic system – otherwise known as the emotional seat of the brain, rather than the more rational prefrontal cortex. So don’t take your children’s outbursts personally. Give them a break from time to time and try and remember how you felt when growing up as a teenager.  
  1. United we stand, divided we fall. All children, at one time or another will play one parent off against the other – this applies to both natural parents and stepparents. Never undermine your partner in front of your children, they will spot it immediately and use it to their advantage. After all, how can you expect your children to respect your partner if, in their eyes at least, you don’t? As parents you should remain united in your decision-making, keeping discussions about any differences you are unhappy about away from your children. 
  1. Have fun! Remember, in the words of one of the characters in my books – “it’s not a life, it’s an adventure.” Take the rough with the smooth and like the tide of the sea, enjoy the ebb and the flow that is my experience of blended family life and most of all enjoy your teenagers. They can be very insightful and hilariously witty – as well as notoriously moody! Good luck.  


All the Colours In Between was released on 19th October and is published by Urbane Publications. 





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