Remarriage has many potential benefits for both you and your children. However, remarriage often causes some emotional turbulence at first in families with children. It’s vital to know how to approach this subject with your children, common issues you should expect, and some peaceful methods of resolving such issues.
Your Children Love Their Parents, Not Their Parents’ Relationship
Your children may not have any clue about the division between you and your ex or how or why your marriage ended, and some kids may hold out hope that their parents will eventually get back together. When you tell your children you are marrying someone else, this can come as an emotional shock and your children may take the news badly. They will suddenly see their hopes of their parents’ reunion destroyed and may act out in several possible ways in response.
A child in a single custody arrangement may have grown accustomed to having the parent all to him or herself, and the shock of suddenly having to share a parent with his or her romantic partner may be a difficult adjustment. This can be especially true if a single parent is marrying another single parent who has children of his or her own. A child may feel as though this new family will replace his or her original family, and it’s vital to work through these issues with children so they know what to expect.
It’s common for a child to show increased attachment to a parent when the parent is dating or spending time with a romantic partner and his or her children. Some kids may attempt to convince a parent not to pursue these relationships and come up with many reasons for the parent to leave the relationship. Remember, your child cares about you and likely doesn’t understand or care about your romantic life and happiness in romantic relationships. This isn’t selfishness; it’s simply a lack of maturity that your child will eventually overcome.
The Adjustment Period
A child who is adjusting to a remarriage may sometimes make hurtful statements about the stepparent. It’s normal for a child to compare a stepparent to his or her other parent, so parents and stepparents should address these issues diplomatically. Eventually, a child will accept the new family dynamic but family counseling and individual therapy may help as well if the adjustment period is especially difficult.
If you intend to remarry, it is crucial that your children understand that your new partner is not a replacement for their other parent. Encourage children to talk about their feelings and assure them they will not face punishment for honestly sharing their feelings. You may find that your child had an unreasonable or outlandish fear about some aspect of your remarriage that you can easily explain to make him or her feel better about the situation.
Develop a New Routine
Children need boundaries, and a sudden change in routine can come as a shock and lead to all types of negative behaviors. Work with your new partner, your new stepchildren, if any, and your own kids to develop a new routine that works for everyone. Once you start establishing boundaries and structure in a new living arrangement, your kids will start feeling more at home and establish a sense of normalcy.
Ideally, your children will come to respect your new partner and acknowledge that he or she is important to you. Depending on the level of contact your children have with your ex, fostering relationships with stepparents may prove difficult, and it’s essential for all parties involved to be willing to compromise for an easier transition.