Teenagers are already dealing with academic and social pressures at school. Coming home and having to adjust to new siblings can add more stress and anxiety into their lives. Whether you are having a later-in-life baby or preparing to blend your lives with a new partner and his children, it can be a very difficult and overwhelming situation for your teenager to deal with. Taking the time to prepare your teen well in advance and making her feel loved and valued can help make the transition smoother for all involved.
If your teen has been the only child in the house her whole life, bringing in a new baby can be a major adjustment. She might feel like all the attention you were able to give her will no longer be there, causing resentment toward the new baby. Getting your teen involved in preparations for the new baby can get her excited and make her feel a part of the process, according to child psychologist Daniel Klein in a January 2011 article for "Metro Parent." Ask her opinion on the baby's name and seek her advice on decorating the baby's room. Most teens will come around with open dialogue and once they can hold and play with the baby.
Bringing adopted children home can bring even more concerns for teens. If the adopted child is of another ethnicity or race, for example, your teen might find it difficult to deal with all the questions and stares from friends and strangers. If you are adopting an older child, your teen might worry they won't get along. Social worker and adoption educator Jane Brown, in a 2008 article for "Adoptalk," encourages parents to involve the whole family in adoption education programs, adoption organizations and/or multiethnic adoption networks to meet families in the same situation. Your teen will get to meet with adopted kids and talk with other teenagers who have siblings who were adopted. It will give your teen a chance to ask questions and ease fears with the help of peers who can relate.
Welcoming new stepsiblings into their lives can be the hardest transition for teens. Your teen might have just adjusted to the fact that you and your previous spouse divorced, or she might be used to it just being you and her at home. She now has to accept a new stepparent and that person's kids. It can be even harder if the stepsiblings are close to your teen's age, as she could be worried about her space being invaded or taken over. Introducing your new partner first and letting him and your child develop a relationship, then slowly introducing his children, is the key to a smooth transition, according to author and family expert Susan S. Bartell in an article for "Focus Adolescent Services." She also recommends that you include your teen in marriage talk and wedding plans. Hold regular family meetings once everyone is under one roof to deal with issues.
Making Time for Teen
No matter what new sibling situation your teen is facing, it is important to make sure your teen knows and feels that nothing will change the love you have for her. Make it a point to carve out one-on-one time with your teen every day, even if it's just five minutes in her room as she's getting ready for school in the morning. Plan weekly time when the two of you can get out of the house and do something alone, such as going to a coffee shop to chitchat or taking an art class together. Make sure your teen knows that she can come to you privately with concerns regarding her new siblings as well. Help her come up with positive solutions to deal with issues, or encourage her to bring those issues up at the next family meeting.
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