Six Tips To Connecting With Your Teenage Stepdaughter
Two years ago I met a wonderful woman who I’m still with to this day.
In our beginning, we took things slowly, weren’t pushing anything and just went with the flow.
No expectations, plenty of compromises and just enjoying our time together, while being positive about what’s to come.
However, there was one thing I wasn’t prepared for. The woman has a daughter.
So the moment I became part of the mother’s life, it was obvious that I’ll eventually enter the child’s life too. When talking about a teenage girl with moxie and no father figure in her life, I knew it would be a difficult journey.
I can’t say I was mentally prepared for that challenge. I didn’t have any experience with kids.
- to have a brand new family (if things work out) and
- for the 2 girls to have a male figure in their life.
And for all of us to,
- form meaningful relationships,
- become better communicators,
- support each other, and
- learn a few crucial life lessons.
Now two years later, my stepdaughter is 14 years old. She admits I’m one of her best friends.
So much has changed, we’ve both grown in ways we can’t even realize. We’re now stronger, more understanding of what the other one is going through and happy to have each other.
I’ll now share some of the advice I wish I had when I first met 12 year old Ellie, so I can save you, dear newbie stepdads, all the guess work I had to do:
Give Her All the Time in the World
In my case, the biodad left his family a long time ago. He only calls every now and then to see if everyone’s alright.
Which is far from enough, especially for a girl who needs the attention of the most important man in her life. Your situation might be different.
It could be their biodad passed away, in which case give the daughter time for grieving.
Also, it could also be the ex already has a new family. This is heart-breaking and might mean the young girl is questioning whether anyone would love her ever again.
So take a step back, give her some space, enough time and slowly enter her life in a friendly and peaceful way.
Never Take it Personally
I’ve experienced hatred, ignorance, irritation and most of the other negative feelings one person can show towards another.
At some point it hit me. It had nothing to do with me.
That’s just what’s going on in the mind and heart of a young girl who’s already been through more than she deserved. So I decided to take another approach.
Instead of trying to fix, I kept being her friend. I also started reading a bit about teenage behavior, acting out, childhood psychology, relationships in general and the healing process.
It became somewhat of my hobby and opened my mind for many more deep realizations about life and love, that I hadn’t previously thought of. But most importantly, it helped me understand Ellie a bit more.
Over time, she stopped pretending to be anyone else other than her real self in front of me. Her mother noticed and was glowing when she saw my new side project too.
It’s not about you. It’s about her and her biodad. And that’s something you can’t control.
Just be There for Her
That’s what parenting boils down to. Simple as that.
When there’s a biodad who isn’t doing his job of being their for his kid you[the stepdad] need to step in the gap. Doing so without trying to interfere and pretend to bring discipline in the family or make drastic changes.
Whenever she wants to talk – listen. Ask questions about her interests to have more topics to talk with her and build a quality connection.
Refrain from judging her behavior or how she dresses. It can only worsen the situation.
When she needs someone to do something for her and her mum is busy, free you schedule and go do it. Give her support when you think its needed.
Little things like that make all the difference in your relationship over time.
Do Good but Expect Nothing in Return
That’s a life general rule, but it’s key in stepparenting too.
You’ll be making many compromises because of the new kid in your life, but most often they will remain unnoticed. Your job is to be okay with that.
Don’t expect to be praised for your patience, kindness, gifts or dad duties.
Just keep doing what you do. Your relationship with both the woman you’re in love and her daughter will be strengthening.
Let Go of Competing
Wanting to replace her real dad in her heart will only lead to you thinking irrationally and playing with the feelings of a little girl.
So leave that behind. This is not a competition.
You’re a stepdad now. As such you just need to help out when possible and to be kind to the kid that’s lost something important in her life.
This will make it easier for you too.
Learn How to Manage Conflict
A rebellious stepdaughter is a tough job indeed. Drama will come out of nowhere, and you’ll have no explanation for it.
Learn to expect it at any moment, and be patient enough not to react. If you do, things will get even more complicated.
The mother will have to step in too. Three people in an argument is never a good thing.
Instead, be the peaceful one. Never scream, get angry or judge.
But when it happens, try to solve it pragmatically. Keeping these six tips in mind will save you a lot of trouble down the road.
Enter the journey of your life, as you’ll grow spiritually and mentally together with your stepkid. Remember, don’t take it personally and don’t compete.
Just be there, have fun and help out.
Read about Rachel Thomas’ experiences as a stepdaughter and what she recommends to stepdads on how to be successful with your stepkids.