Encouragement for Stepparents of Teens

Parenting teens is tough. And when stepparents are involved, the challenges are magnified. Step-parenting is one of the toughest roles an adult will ever step into. Currently, one out of three people in America are either a stepparent, a stepchild, or part of a blended family. And while every child and situation is different, healthy family relationships are still possible. In this article, I’ll identify the unique challenges stepparents face and offer ideas for building strong relationships with your teenaged stepchildren.

There Are Unique Challenges that Stepparents Face

In a perfect world, there would never be divorce or a need for a blended family. But we don’t live in perfect world. Teens especially feel the loss of the family they hoped for, or expected to have. Filling that void with a stepparent doesn’t make that loss go away. In fact, it can bring it to the surface and show through your teen’s behavior. Deep down, every kid wishes their birth parents were still together. So, even if a stepparent is a wonderful addition to the family, he or she might remind a teen of who’s missing. In fact, the better that stepparent is, the more painfully a teen might feel the loss!

Another unique challenge of blended families is that the kids often believe that having a good relationship with a stepparent, means they can’t have a relationship with their original parent. Accepting a stepparent feels like a rejection of their “real” parent. So, by rejecting you, your stepchild feels “loyal” to his original parent. You need to realize that you can’t fix this problem for your teen. It’s something he is going to have to work through.

Sadly some ex-spouses make it their aim to get back at their former partner. The added tension of a strained relationship with an ex-spouse makes conflict inevitable––especially if your teen splits his time between you and another parent. Values, rules, boundaries, and expectations may be different for the teen in a different house. And teens quickly learn how to take advantage and manipulate the situation to try and get what they want.

Ideas for Building a Strong Relationship with a Stepchild

If you believed stepping into a blended family would be easy, you’re simply not dealing in reality. No matter how wonderful the new marriage is, conflict is inevitable as these two families come together. You need to understand that conflict is part of your reality. And when it comes, don’t overreact! Typically your teen’s anger will flare up quickly and die down just as quickly. Overreacting to a teen’s bad attitude can push a teen into rebellion. Instead, enter into each conflict with a great amount of understanding and strength. Your calm, steady reaction will create much-needed stabilization. And part of getting to a better relationship, is walking through the storms together.

It’s important to spend time figuring out how this new family will work. What will your role be? Parents and stepparents can and should control the behavior of a child when he’s unable to control his own behavior. No amount of loss ever justifies a teen being disrespectful, disobedient, dishonest, hateful, evil, apathetic, or nasty to a stepparent. But you might need to be prepared for it anyway.As you create a new family, create an environment where disagreements and struggles are okay. You need to understand that there are going to be some problems you cannot fix, some problems that are not yours to solve, and some things that will never be resolved. So don’t expect or demand perfect behavior from your teen. Just like you, they won’t react perfectly all the time.

Encouragement for Stepparents

No one likes conflict, but you can choose to embrace the conflicts that arise and use these moments as opportunities to strengthen your bond. If you approach it correctly, the conflict can be the opportunity you need to draw closer. Remember in those moments when your teen is directing his anger and frustration at you, that it doesn’t mean that you are the problem. Your teen is going through a painful loss. Do not to take your teen’s behavior personally. If stepparents allow their teens to work through their loss, while requiring teens to accept responsibility for their feelings and behavior, a relationship will eventually develop. But it’s going to take a lot of time and patience.


Hey moms, dads, and those of you who are stepmoms and stepdads … the position that you find yourself in, in a blended family can be a tough spot. The challenges you’ll face are unique to the new family that you’ve put together. So let me encourage you with a couple of thoughts that might help. First, if you believe that all that comes to you has first passed through the hands of God, then the challenges before you are going to be a wonderful (but not always fun) opportunity to learn how to accept that which is before you—and lean on Him for your strength and guidance. Secondly, the challenges of being stepparent will soon pass as you and your spouse grow closer. The challenges presented by blending your family will soon be in the rearview mirror. So hold on to each other. Trust that God is present and take advantage of the opportunity before you.

A Teen’s Pressure to Be Perfect

No one is perfect. But sometimes, moms and dads think their kids should be the exception! The problem is that trying to appear flawless can prevent your teen from authentically and genuinely becoming who they were created to be. In this article, I’ll help parents avoid pushing their teens to chase after unattainable standards and warn parents against the dangers of pressuring teens to be perfect.

Where Does the Pressure to be Perfect Come From?

The pressure to perform well is aimed at teens from all directions––at home, at school and at church! But there’s no doubt that parents have an unmatched influence in their teens’ lives. Even parents who don’t think they’re being tough, can unknowingly communicate their desire for perfection. When parents only affirm their kid’s value when that kid is doing what the parents want or expect, kids grow up to believe that they must be perfect in order to be loved. By the time they reach the teenaged years, the pressure causes some kids to fear that if they make a mistake or do badly, they will lose the love of Mom and Dad.

Your teen spends a large portion of their life being trained and graded for their performance. There is intense pressure to perform well academically coming from school, the culture, and their peers. Many well-meaning parents want to see their teens get into a good college. They’re afraid that if they don’t put pressure on their teens, their student will miss out on opportunities as an adult. As a result, some teens become overly anxious about schoolwork and grades. Teens often think they need to have perfect grades to get into the best college or else their life is ruined.

Your church can be a wonderful source of wisdom, guidance, and connection for your teen. But there are spoken and unspoken pressures that teens face at church. Christian circles can be brutal to the one who makes a mistake. While teens need to hear about God’s standards, they often miss the pathway to forgives and transformation.

Does YOUR Teen Feel the Pressure of Perfection?

How do parents find out if their teens are struggling with perfection? Teens may respond differently to the pressure. Some teens will strive and struggle to live up to the world’s expectations and then implode, or live with bitterness into adulthood. Others may respond to the pressure by doing the opposite––giving up and escaping the stress. Watch your teen closely and stay connected by making regular time to talk.

What To Do to Ease the Pressure at Home

Help your teen get a big-picture view of life beyond academics, sports, and performance. Make it okay to mess up. You may remember that you made some of your own mistakes as a teen. It’s not only okay, but it’s also helpful to admit your own faults. Sharing your stories and how you overcame your failures is a golden opportunity to communicate the wisdom you gained and help your teen face his own problems.

Your teen is going to make mistakes whether or not you press on them to be perfect. What they need to know is that your love for them won’t change. Resist the temptation to tie your love to your teen’s behavior. Don’t withdraw your affection when your teen is not living up to your expectations. Give him grace. Most importantly, continually communicate God’s love for your teen. God doesn’t attach his love to any accolades or achievements. He loved your teen, even more than you do, before your teen achieved anything. The Bible says, “God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That means you and your teen!


Hey moms, dads, and grandparents … you’re not perfect. You never have been and you never will be this side of heaven. So quit trying to appear to be something you’re not. Release your teen from the pressures of having to get it all together and thinking that they can never make a mistake. This perfect world and perfect family doesn’t exist, and your attempts to appear that way won’t allow your teen to see that being authentically and genuinely who you were created to be is a far greater an accomplishment than appearing perfect by what you do. Bottom line is this—your teen needs an atmosphere where the demand for perfection is low and the encouragement to be honest is high. That authenticity creates a connection and a deeper relationship that helps your teen become who he was designed to be.

Fighting Over Control with Your Teen

When a child is born, parents assume a position of complete control as they raise this helpless little human being. But over the years, moms and dads must loosen the reins as their dependent child turns into an independent adult! In this article, I’ll walk you through four essential stages of giving up control and training your teen for life.  

During Stages of Parenting

Parents begin with ALL the control. Children are completely dependent on mom and dad for everything. The goal is to move that child from dependance to complete independence by the time they’re adults. Here’s the ideal path:

  • Stage One: Pleasing your child (birth through preschool years)
  • Stage Two: Protecting your child (toddler through elementary years)
  • Stage Three: Providing for your child (begins in junior high years)
  • Stage Four: Preparing your child (begins in early high school years)!

Getting Stuck in the Stages of Parenting

There are several reasons that some well-meaning parents get stuck in certain stages of parenting. Some parents, especially first-time parents, simply do not know what lies ahead for their teens. Others may not recognize the signs that their child is ready to move from one stage to the next, until tensions arise. Then, there are parents who resist change; they do not understand that the decisions and habits developed during one stage of development must shift and change when their child is moving to the next phase of life. Failing to move forward from one stage to the next means both parents and their teens will not function well.

Every stage has challenges. For example, parents who get stuck in the habit of always pleasing their young children, will get in trouble when their kids move to the seventh and eighth grades. Likewise, parents who fail to let go of the protective stage never let their kids experience the world outside their home, and will face trouble by the time their teen reaches high school and is naturally wanting more independence. During the high school years, Mom and Dad should be preparing teens for the real world ahead. But if they miss this important stage, disorder and confusion will surround these young adults in their college years.

What Happens When Parents Don’t Move Forward Appropriately?

Parents who refuse to or fail to move forward appropriately create a muddled, mixed-up, chaotic atmosphere at home. Their teens will act out because they feel insecure and unprepared to enter the world. These teens are often immature and irresponsible because they have not been given the opportunity to make decisions and take responsibility for their choices. Avoiding these sometimes uncomfortable but necessary changes doesn’t prevent problems; it simply puts off trouble for later. Ultimately, these teenagers will fight their parents for control over their own lives.

How to Transfer Control to Your Kids When the Time is Right

I’m not suggesting that you should dump all life’s decisions and responsibilities into your child’s lap all at once. It takes time and intentionality to train your child so that she is ready to take control when the time is right. Start by giving your teen control over smaller things. After all the Bible says, “he who is faithful in little will be faithful in much”. Remember that giving your child control is what your child needs, not necessarily what he deserves. It may feel uncomfortable and risky, but you must let your kids fail appropriately—and the sooner the better. Let them fail while they are in your home, where you can watch, train, and help them try again.

Encourage your teen to make decisions and accept responsibility for the rewards or consequences. Avoid the urge to step in and fix all their problems. Instead, let your teen flex his decision-making “muscles” as much as possible while they’re still home with you. Experience and practice are a critical part of the training process that they need to be prepared for life as an adult. In the long run, messing up during the teen years can be just the opportunity you and your teen need to prepare them for what’s next. That way, you can be there to help and guide, when necessary. 


Hey moms, dads, and grandparents … start saying this early in your teen’s life: “You need to be in control of your life.” Too often we want to control our teens. But for every instance that we’re in control, we’re missing the opportunity for our kids to learn control—of course, at appropriate age levels. Control is what parents have in the preteen years. Them being in control is what we’re hoping for in their teen years. Many times because of our desire to have one more momentary feeling of control, we lose a lifetime of influence. Teens want to be in control. Let them have it. And communicate––to those whom much is given, much is required. Your teens will love the freedom and begin to learn what it is to become an adult.