Bethlehem Press

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Family Project: Stepmother must resolve role with stepson

Friday, November 29, 2019 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. My 15-year-old stepson told his dad that he doesn’t want me to tell him what to do. He would rather his dad (my husband) tell him. I try to make sure homework and chores are done before his dad gets home so they can spend time together. I understand that being a stepparent can be thankless, but I am a maid, chauffeur, chef, scheduler, and more, and now don’t have enough authority to ask my stepson to take out the garbage. What can I do?

“The stepmother needs to take a step back and think about what her goals are,” panelist Mike Ramsey said.

“Is the goal to have tasks around the house completed, in which case we can talk about how to make the boy more receptive to doing those tasks? Or is the goal to have a more compliant 15-year-old who follows the rules of the stepmom?,” asked Ramsey.

“This is a power struggle,” panelist Chad Stefanyak said. “The stepmom needs to set the line and duke it out. Otherwise this will suck the dad into a situation where he feels he has to take sides, creating more problems down the road,” Stefanyak said.

Stefanyak suggested that she explain that she is still going to tell the stepson to take out the trash, but she wants to do it in a way that they can have a good relationship. Stefanyak urged the stepmother to tell the stepson they need to meet with the father to clarify roles and find ways to get things done.

Panelist Denise Continenza agreed that at some point there needed to be a follow-up family meeting.

Panelist Erica Carter said before anything, “the stepmom needs support from her husband. Before bringing the stepson into the conversation, the parents need to agree on what their roles should be.”

“Whether the biological parents were divorced, or the biological mother died, these are conditions the stepmom has zero control over,” Ramsey said.

“I would be surprised if some conflicts weren’t going on. If the child didn’t try to gain control of some aspect of the household, I would be even more surprised,” said Ramsey.

Ramsey said not to expect the stepson to fall entirely in line: “He’s still going to be a 15-year-old who is going to offer some level of resistance.

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Denise Continenza, extension educator; Erin Stalsitz, Lehigh Children & Youth, and Erica Carter, functional family therapy therapist.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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