Taken From: Here
When a Stepparent Enters the Picture
In some families, new adults and kids seem to slip in effortlessly, as though they have
been there all along. Everyone gets along well — one big happy family, just like on "The
But some families brought together through marriage can be so different that the best
everyone can do is grit their teeth and work extremely hard to get through a weekend
Building a relationship with a stepparent can be quite different from building other new
relationships. After all, when you meet a new friend or love interest, you are the one
deciding if that person will have a role in your life. You get to introduce these new
people into your life gradually, taking time to decide how they fit and how you really
feel about them.
A stepparent is different; he or she is someone your mom or dad has invited into the
family. Sometimes a stepparent can feel like a stranger who is suddenly inserted into the
most personal aspects of your life. The pressure to get along can be intense.
Because everyone's situation is different, there are no easy answers to accepting a
stepparent. Some people find themselves with new stepparents after a parent has died,
others after parents have divorced. Some parents take years to meet and marry other
people; some remarry almost immediately.
When a parent remarries, you may find yourself with an instant family of stepsiblings or,
after a few years, with younger half brothers or sisters.
Although every family is different, there are some things that can help you deal with a
Dealing With Feelings
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to recognize that you'll have
plenty of feelings about your new situation, and some of these may conflict. For example,
even when someone likes a new stepparent, it's natural to feel some pangs that this new
person is "replacing" a beloved parent in some way.
Change — good or bad — is difficult. Even if you don't have negative feelings about
the new person in your family, you may have very strong feelings about the changes a
stepparent is creating.
At some point, you're probably going to feel confused, conflicted about your loyalties,
angry, and possibly sad. Here are a couple of things to try that may help put your
feelings into focus:
Keep a journal. Write down how you feel about the changes in your life. Make a list of
pros and cons to see how they compare. Then check back in 6 months and do the list again.
This can help you track how things may have changed. Sometimes, when time has passed, you
can see a situation in a different way.
Seek support from a friend. Some of your close, trusted friends may have their own
stepparent experiences that can help you feel you're not alone. Friends also can share
tips on what they did in situations similar to yours — everything from sharing a room
with a new stepsibling to juggling computer time. Even if your friends' situations are
different (just because your best friend doesn't get along with his or her stepparents,
that's not a hard and fast rule for anyone else), it always helps to have a sympathetic
Talk to your parent or another trusted adult about how you're feeling. It's important to
share your fears, feelings, and frustrations with an adult you trust — no matter how
crazy you may think these feelings are. Don't be afraid that something you say will cause
hurt feelings or make you seem like a problem. An adult who loves you will want to help.
If your parent is too wrapped up in the new relationship to help you work through your
feelings (yes, parents can be selfish sometimes), then look for a group at school or in
your community where you can vent. Or talk to a teacher or a guidance counselor about
what's going on in your life. Mental health professionals, such as social workers or
therapists, are trained to help people sort out the conflicting mix of feelings that can
accompany a parent's remarriage.
Entering a stepparent situation can be particularly challenging for teens. Feeling like
your family life has been disrupted can be especially difficult because of all the other
changes that take place during the teenage years — everything from the emotional growth
involved in becoming an adult to the hormonal changes triggered by puberty. If you find
that your new situation has left you feeling sad most of the time, or you just can't shake
the blues, you may want to talk to a doctor or therapist.
Facing the Realities
So what can you do to adjust to the daily realities of living with a stepparent? Instead
of worrying about the "what ifs" and the inevitable changes, talk to your mom or dad about
what to expect before your new stepparent joins the family. That way, you can be prepared
for, rather than mortified by, what lies ahead. For example, figure out ahead of time what
to call your stepparent. Ask about holiday plans and who's giving presents to whom. If
your house is about to explode with new people, find out how this affects you and that
spare room where you listen to music.
Don't be afraid to ask questions as they come to mind. Your parents and new stepparent may
not have thought about the things you're asking either, so there's an opportunity to
explore options together. And if there's something you absolutely don't want to change,
try to negotiate. For example, if you and your dad always go fishing over Thanksgiving but
your mom made plans for you to spend the holiday with her new husband's family, she may
not realize how important the fishing trip is to you.
What about those times when you flat out disagree with a stepparent? You'll have a better
chance of getting what you want if you disagree without disrespect.
Explain your feelings calmly and rationally. For example, if you have a new half-brother
or -sister and you feel like you're constantly being expected to babysit at the last
minute, talk it over with your stepparent before the situation gets to the stage where you
feel taken advantage of. Present your side — maybe you have to study for a test or you
already made plans with friends and they're relying on you. Then listen to the other
If you're particularly mad about something, it can feel hard not to lose control. But
managing your anger and taking extra care to choose respectful language will help your
stepparent see you for the mature person you are, not as a child.
Find a way to get to know the new stepparent in your life. Suggest a bike ride or go to a
movie together. It may not be easy, but you can use the same relationship and
communication skills you would use to make anyone feel welcome. It may help to remember
that your stepparent is walking into a new situation, too. He or she could feel just as
nervous and confused as you do.
Expect some rough spots. You know that establishing a good relationship takes time. Your
new life won't always be smooth, so be ready to make some compromises. The good thing is,
the ups and downs of adjusting to a new family situation can offer some really great life
lessons. Many people look back on their experiences getting to know new family members and
realize they learned some great relationship (and negotiating!) skills in the process.
Remind yourself that every situation is different. There's no real script for a new family
that's being pulled together from all sorts of directions. Be open to lots of
possibilities. And savor the good moments. Although change is often difficult, it can be
Three months after her dad remarried, Shelly was beginning to enjoy the time she spent
with her father and stepmother. She couldn't help but see how happy her dad was —
especially when the three of them did things together. And when she needed some alone time
for just the two of them, she and her dad headed to the coffee shop. Despite all the
changes in their lives, some things didn't change between Shelly and her dad — like the
fact he thought there was way too much sugar and caffeine in the frozen mocha cappuccino
and always made her pick something else.