New Wife and Teen Daughter at Odds
Simple Things Dads Can Do to Help Keep the Peace at Home
You remarried. Everything seemed okay at first. But something caused a rift between your new wife and teen daughter. They seem to hate each other. You’re caught in the middle and don’t see a way out.
For the first time, you’re finally happy. You’re in love and have everything you’ve ever wanted – except, for peace. Peace left your humble abode and now your wife and teen either yell and scream or give each other the silent treatment. What can you do to help them get along?
In the interest of full-disclosure, I must tell you that I harbor views that differ with normal, more Dr. Phil-like methods of parenting. What I have for you are lessons I’ve learned the hard way over 16 years of parenting my own flock and of watching others do it.
Parenting is not a sport of gut feelings. It takes control, smarts, and critical thinking to raise an adult capable of handling life’s challenges. Teens aren’t who you think they are. They’re so much more!
There, now that we got all the disclaimers out of the way, let’s move on.
Things Your Wife and Teen Daughter Don’t Understand About Each Other
You’re not a victim of two forces of nature. Don’t behave as if you are. I want you to think about your role as the guy caught in the middle. To help you understand your new wife and teen daughter, it’s paramount that you learn about major differences between them. Surely, one of these will be the underlying source of the problem.
1. Each is from a different generation.
This is the biggest cause of all the issues your new wife and teen have. Millenials can more or less relate to other millennials. But anyone older than the Generation X crowd would likely base their system of values on experiences teenage millennials wouldn’t easily relate to.
2. Differences in social class
We all would like to pretend our social class doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, it does. Children of working class families grow up on less than their middle-class counterparts. These differences can create opposing political and social views or opinions.
3. Your teen may have grown up in a one-parent household while your wife may have come from a home with two parents
Your teenaged daughter likely spent her young, more formidable years in a single-parent home. If your new wife was fortunate enough to grow up with two parents, she may not understand why your teen behaves more like an adult and less like a child.
4. Nature makes teens feel a sense of entitlement of which they aren’t aware
They don’t know they’re doing it. And even when you bring it up to them, they usually disagree. Obsessed by labels, they’d like to satiate their constant need to be right about something after spending their childhoods getting it wrong.
Thank a teen’s lack of a proper, functioning pre-frontal cortex for this one! It’s the part of your teen’s brain where empathy (the real kind and not the puppies and kitties type) will one day reside. Until then, she only understands the world as she sees it. She knows you have a point of view, but she doesn’t understand where it comes from specifically.
5. Disparity in levels of education
If your new wife is a college graduate, and your child is only in high school, a rift could form in their educational gap.
Your teen probably knows the basics. She can add and subtract without the use of a calculator. Your wife’s college degree is a good thing! Freud believed that children copy the habits and behavior of their closest same-sexed parent.
How to Fix the Relationship Between Your New Wife and Teen Daughter
Now that you can understand the factors that could be causing the problem, Here are a few ways to begin the healing process.
Counseling will help you grow as a father and husband. You’ll have a place to work out all of your ills. It is my honest-to-goodness firm belief that all children whose parents are divorced need to be in a family counseling program. It’s too important to skip. It’s a biggie!
Invite your new wife to attend. If she has children, too, ask that they all come along.
You’ve never forged a new family before – at least not successfully on your own. It’s ideal that you learn how to do it. You wouldn’t pop open up a box containing a dresser (in pieces) IKEA and just start connecting “Screw B” to “Panel A.” No one does that! You need an instruction manual to build anything worth your time and attention.
How to Get Them Talking
In order to get your new wife and teen daughter to break out of their behavior, talk about it in counseling and let them both know that it bothers you.
Clear the air. This one will probably get messy. Everything you didn’t want to know will get said out loud and in living color. Prepare yourself. Remember not to freak out. Keep it civil but honest. Make sure that both your new wife and teen understand you’re only there to listen. The conversation is theirs to have.
Ask each one to make a list of each other’s concerns about the other person. Read them to yourself in private. Then bring the two together in an open setting, a public park for example, and ask that they each read one another’s lists out loud. This one I learned from a therapist. It actually works if you do it right.
It helps them see the humanity in the other person.
Have weekly session time together. If your wife and teen daughter are ever going to have a half-decent relationship, they’ll need to work on it regularly by spending time together. Don’t skip this one it’s important.
Science has proven it takes 21 days of consistent, repetitive action to turn a new behavior into a habit. Be it biting your nails or starting off your mornings with a coffee, you developed your habits by taking behaviors and doing them daily. The same is true with this. Make talking to both your wife and teen a part of your routine to help them build healthy communication habits.
They both have to be willing to work at building common ground to figuratively stand on together. Then, they’ll have to work to maintain it. Your spouse is the adult. Equipped with a functional prefrontal cortex, she is perfectly capable of trying to understand your teenaged daughter.
They might not ever get along. That’s a possibility. Not all humans are the best of friends after all. If that happens, it may be time for a change for everyone’s sake. Everyone has to work at it. You should feel as if your efforts and energy are being met and returned. Someone who loves you should love your child. Don’t hang on to a relationship in which you benefit and your teen daughter lives her life at odds with your spouse.