Navigating Blended Family: Building Strong Relationships with Teenagers
I’ve been together with my girlfriend for almost 4 years now. Eight months ago, we decided to move in together and merge our families.
I have two daughters, a ten-year-old and a seven-year-old from the previous marriage, and she has two kids of her own: a 15-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son. If you have a relationship with someone who has teenagers from previous commitments, you know that often things can get a little complicated.
During these eight months of living together, I have learned that you need to walk the walk if you want to earn a teenager’s trust and cooperation. There are 4 major things I do in order to develop a great relationship with my girlfriend’s teenage kids:
- Meaningful Communication: No small talk.
- In my experience, establishing trust and cooperation with teenagers, especially if they’re not yours, requires careful communication. I’ve found that focusing on important matters and staying away from casual small talk garners their attention and interest. Teenagers often struggle with boundaries, so this approach helps maintain a level of mutual respect while acknowledging their independence. I don’t talk much, so when I do, it must be important.
- Give and Share: Give without expecting anything in return.
- Actively participating in their lives by offering support, whether through cooking meals, helping when in need, or even providing opportunities to earn some cash, goes a long way. I’ve realized that before asking for their help or assistance, it’s important to give first. This approach creates a sense of mutual responsibility and reinforces the idea that we’re a team. I give a bunch of small gestures and ask for one big thing in return: RESPECT.
- Inclusion and Acceptance: Treat me the way you want to be treated.
- Every teenager wants to feel valued and accepted in their family, especially in a newly formed family. Treating my partner’s children as I do my own, whether by providing support or by demanding accountability, is a way of ensuring that they don’t feel left out or discriminated against. By involving them in family activities and decisions, I emphasize their role in our blended family, fostering a sense of belonging. Treat me the same way you want to be treated.
- Curiosity and Understanding: Act as if you don’t know anything.
- Teenagers often believe that adults don’t understand their world. I’ve found that embracing their perspective and showing genuine curiosity helps bridge the generation gap. Rather than appearing all-knowing, I approach conversations as opportunities to learn from them. This approach encourages open dialogue and reduces misunderstandings.
I play their game by their rules. The winner takes it all.
I’ll give you a short example: One evening, from the other room I’m eavesdropping on a conversation between my girlfriend and her son. He sounded very disrespectful, and Jade, my girlfriend, was very upset when he left the room. Since I was caught up in a Zoom meeting and couldn’t intervene on the spot, I decided to wait until the next day to address the situation.
The very next day, I went to pick up her son from school. Shortly after he got in the car, as usual with genuine curiosity, I asked Luc, “I know you want me to protect your mother and you from anyone trying to hurt her and you guys. And as you probably know, pain comes in different forms: physical and emotional. What would you expect me to do if I’m out with your mother and someone’s trying to hurt her?” I bet you expect me to defend her, correct?” He answered simply, “Yes, of course.”
Waiting at the red light, I asked him again, “If someone opens the door right now and tries to snatch you from this car, would you expect me to get out of the car and protect you?” Again, he said, “Yes, of course.”
“Would you expect me to protect your mother, you, and your sister from anyone who’s trying to hurt you guys?” “Yes,” he answered. “Well, last night, after the conversation you had with your mother, she was very hurt and almost in tears. And, like you said and expect, I will protect your mother from anyone, including you. Please don’t ever talk to her like that. It’s hurtful and disrespectful.
There are many ways to get your point across, and I am more than happy to teach you that. However, disrespect will never be tolerated in this family.
Also, whenever you want me to talk to your mother when she’s hurting your feelings, please don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll do the same for you.”
Blending families is a complex journey that demands patience, understanding, and adaptability. Building strong relationships with teenagers from previous marriages requires consistent effort, open communication, and a willingness to embrace their perspectives. By following these principles, I’ve found that our blended family is growing stronger and closer each day, overcoming challenges and creating a harmonious home for everyone involved.
Thank you for reading