Being a step-mom is a difficult role to be in no matter how ideal the scenario. When you add being a step-mom to a teenager it just gets that much harder. Then you add being a young step-mom to a freshman in highschool!
If you would have told me 10 years ago that when I was 26 (in two weeks) I would be a step-mom to a highschool freshman, I think I would have laughed. I come from a blended family myself. A half-sister from my mom’s first marriage, three sisters and myself from my mom’s second marriage, and a step-brother from my dad’s second marriage, so I have experienced the blended family situation. I know first-hand what goes through a teenager’s mind about their step-parent. At fourteen-years-old, it usually was not very good.
Trish and I have dreaded this year for the last three years! Every year we saw more and more of the teenager come out in Ali. Now it is finally here, she is a freshman in highschool. The reason I have dreaded this the most is because I not only play good cop in our household, I play bad cop too! My husband works long hours through his busy season, which tends to run from March to November. So it leaves me to play all of the household roles. I knew that when she started her freshman year the first goal would be to have a boyfriend. And it was. We weren’t even a week into school before she had her first boyfriend. As a blended family, we have come together as co-parents to set rules and boundaries for our daughters. We planned even a few months ahead at a parent meeting on the rules we would set for Ali going into her freshman year. This is where the hard part begins. I don’t say this as an assumption, she has told me herself. When she is told no it is most often, “ Molly’s fault”. She calls me the bearer of bad news. It usually doesn’t matter who made the final discussion between the four of us, she still thinks it was my idea. We have our battles, and I get the eye rolls, the hands on the hips or crossed in front, and the glares that could cut glass.
The most difficult part about being a young step-mom is that she thinks because she is closer in age to me than her other three parents, I am the one she has to listen to the least. I’ve racked my brain over the last three and a half years on how to make these next four years the easier. I finally decided it was going to be all trial and error process.
So it begins.
Without telling her too much of what I did and didn’t do myself in school, I tried to explain to her what to expect in highschool. I wanted for her to go into this new chapter of her life with her eyes wide open regarding friends, boys, school-work, etc. No parent wants to admit to their child the things they did in highschool that maybe they shouldn’t have. How they didn’t listen to their parents, etc. But then she started talking to a new boy a few weeks ago. Being an older boy, her mother and I knew this would be a hard one to get the dads to agree with. But we went to bat for her and said we just wanted to meet him, and see where the relationship was going. Trish and Bob had this boy over to their house and were able to get somewhat of a feel for who he was. At a first glance he didn’t seem so bad. Until we started to monitor their phones calls (not listening, just looking at the time-log to see when they talked and for how long), monitoring her twitter account, and just simply listening to Ali and what she had to say about him. We started to realize that he was not such a good fit for her after all. But how do you tell your 14-year-old daughter you don’t like the boy she likes, and expect her to follow everything you say. I know most people say, “Well you just say, NO, and that’s it”. But that’s when I ask you to go back to when you were in highschool and tell me what you did when your parents said that to you…. You found any way you could to still get what you wanted or at least I did.
So here we were, trying to figure out how to explain to her this kid was just not good for her. Over the past weekend, I got on the computer and checked her call log to see when they had been talking. I noticed that there were a few late night phone calls. 1:39 A.M. for 60 mins, 3:59 A.M for 179 mins. You can imagine the look on my face when I saw this boy calling my fourteen-year-old step-daughter at four in the morning, and staying on with her until seven. I know she is just as much at fault for this as he is. So this is when I started thinking I needed to come up with a way to get through to her. But I knew if I just told her what I wanted her to do she wouldn’t listen. So its 8pm on Sunday night and I just couldn’t get it out of my head that we needed to talk. She came upstairs to tell me she was turning in to the basement (as she calls it) for the night. I saw this as the perfect opportunity, and started a conversation about this boy. Asking question, listening, etc. Then I decided instead of telling her what I thought of him or what she needed to do, I shared some of my experiences in highschool. I told her boys are not always honest, and a lot of them will just tell you what they think you want to here. I gave her examples of boyfriends I had, what they said, and what they did. This is when her dad stepped into the conversation. He fell right into the conversation on the same path as I was, as if we were speaking to each other with super natural powers. Tell her about this, don’t tell her that, etc. He explained the other side of the fence. What boys at that age do, what they want, what they say and why they say it. We both talked about our experiences, the mistakes we made, and the things we wished we could have changed. We did not tell her how bad we thought this kid was for her. By giving her the examples from both perspectives, she started to recognize this on her own. You could see her stop and think for a minute about what we were saying. As if she was telling herself, “Wait that’s what he said to me.” And the storm broke. We were able to get through to her. I know some people may not agree with our method of telling our teenager the things we did wrong when we were young., but we felt like we’ve tried everything else. We wanted her to realize that this wasn’t the guy for her, without telling her no, absolutely not. Within the next few days, by things he said himself, and what we talked about, she decided to longer talk to him! I can now sleep another peaceful night…until the next boy comes around.
After a few days, I told her to consider writing a list, before she found a new boy she liked. I suggested she set expectations of what she wants in a boyfriend, that she is not willing to budge on. If the next boy doesn’t meet those standards, it doesn’t mean he is a bad kid, it just means maybe he isn’t the right one for her. Hopefully this works well for her.
What do you and your teen talk about? Have you talked to your teen about setting expectations or standards for themselves? I think this is important, especially for girls. In the moment they just want a boy to like them, so they’re willing to overlook things they shouldn’t. Also, not just expectations for who they date but where they want to go after highschool and how the grades they have could get them there. We meet every parent of her friends or boyfriends before she is allowed to hang out with them outside of our two houses. We also constantly update one another regarding behavior, homework, punishments, and anything else important. After my husband and I spoke to her, she went to her other home. Trish and Bob reiterated everything that she heard from Jeff and I, reinforcing the same points
What have you tried with your teen that has worked?
Molly Heng is Step-Mom to Trish Eklund’s daughters, ages 10 and 14, and Mom to her two children, ages one and two. Molly is the primary parent in her household, and the full-time Office Manager of their lawn and landscaping business. Molly and Trish co-parent the girls with Jeff and Bob. The youngest sister of five girls, step-sister to her brother, she has experienced the heartbreak of divorce from a young age. Molly knows first-hand the importance of co-parenting and putting the children first.