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Parenting Teenage Stepchildren

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Due to the high divorce rate, many people give up on marriage altogether, while others give it another chance and re-marry. This means that you might be bringing your own children or your spouse might have; therefore, you will have to learn to share the responsibility of raising them and this can be challenging if you did not give proper thought to the role you are about to take and equip yourself to excel in it.

 

So how do you become the type of parent that your step kids and their friends would describe in awesome-like terms? How do you really gel and vibe with them so much that they see you as the best thing that ever happened to their young lives, where they will proudly proclaim that "you get them" instead of screaming "you are destroying my life-aaaa!!" Your ultimate goal should be to understand them, that is what they want, to be understood!


For this article, which is a request from one of my regular readers from Lesotho, I want to particularly write to parents who are raising stepchildren, especially if they are teenagers. I must tell you, there is no one size fits all approach in raising kids; find a way that will work for your unique situation. Even though they are not so young, since they are teenagers, yet they are still very fragile, so you want to tread carefully so that they don’t assume that you there to steal their parent away from them, and don’t come already armed expecting them to reject you. You might be coming into their lives while they are still trying to process their pain and trying to heal from say, their parents’ divorce, so you will have to walk very cautiously and not expect things to magically work out instantly. You are going to have to come laden with loads of patience and understanding.


Here are some ideas of how to successfully parent teenagers:


1. Actions speak louder than words: Assure them that you want to be a part of their lives. You have no choice, so you might as well, and this is not just in words, but in deeds; and I am not referring to spoiling them with expensive gifts, no, definitely not by buying their love and acceptance. Your actions have to show that you have a team spirit and you are not trying to take over or isolate them from their parent. Children are very possessive of their parents so breaking through that wall of ownership and set boundary would require a lot of love, patience, and work.


2. Visually motivated: From the onset understand that teenagers are very visually inclined, if they can't visuals a thing, they cannot understand it. So learn this art of communication and utilize it effectively to your advantage, use words that make sense to them, so when you want to make a point and hit bull's eye in order to ensure that they get what you are conveying to them, bring your point in graphics, sound effects and technicolour, then they'll get it. Learn to be very creative with your approach when you communicate with them.


3. Freedom of choice: Allow them the liberty to make their own choices, to make their own mistakes and to learn from them. We always teach children to learn from our mistakes, and that deprives them of the ability to take responsibility and realizing the consequences of their own actions. Always telling them that if they do this or that, this will happen will not stop them from doing the thing you are trying to warn them against doing. They have to know that they have your support and that you believe in them if they fail.


4. Provide solutions: Times have changed drastically. Teenagers now want solutions that are guaranteed to work in their unique situations. The days of using our difficult teenage years as examples and templates to building and encouraging them are long gone. They hate it. They don't want to know about our suffering back when we were growing up, unless there is fun or good memory worth sharing, therefore avoid bringing your "when I was growing up” line or telling them “you think you are suffering now, when I was young we used to do this or that”. They look at that as you telling them to be okay in what does not work for them, so help them with workable solutions to their problems.


Allow them to guide you as far as how to handle them. They are already teenagers so you cannot train or teach them anything that they don't already know. Show genuine interest in their lives, their friends, and in things that matter to them including their music, friends, dreams, frustrations and fears. This is how they will learn to trust you and draw the veil to let you in on their fears; now your mature and experienced self will be able to offer the help and the guidance that they need because they need you even if they don’t know how to show it. So it is important to know where your support is required. Exercise patience and avoid appearing judgemental.


There is a lot of pressure going on that they face regularly; from their friends, social media, communities, families and from themselves, so they do not need any more pressure especially from a new parent. Until you are granted full citizenship status in their lives, excel as a temporary resident, however long it takes!


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