Getting remarried after a difficult divorce can feel invigorating, and like a new chance at a good and happy life. But if you have children from a prior relationship (marriage or otherwise), they may not be as happy as you are about welcoming your new spouse into the family. Here are some tips for how to help your children handle your remarriage and create a strong bond with your new spouse.
Make Sure Your Kids Know Your Remarriage Won’t Replace Their Other Parent
Your child’s relationship with your former spouse or partner is different than yours. Many children hold on to the fantasy that their parents will get back together long after the divorce is final. You may be eager to move past your old relationship and start a new life with a new partner. However, your children may instead feel a sense of loss, or worry that they’ll be forced to give up their mom or dad in favor of a new stepparent.
It’s important to let them know that your remarriage won’t replace your co-parent’s role in their lives. If you are on good terms with your co-parent, consider telling your children about your remarriage together. Seeing their parent is supportive of your decision can go a long way to healing any feelings of loss or grief they may experience in the face of a big relationship change.
Help your Children Handle Your Remarriage
Talk to a psychotherapist about integrating your blended family today.
Listen to Your Children’s Feelings About Your Remarriage
An engagement period can be a whirlwind of positive feelings and excitement for the engaged couple. But children facing a parent’s remarriage may have far more complex feelings. They may be sad, frustrated, angry, or scared about the future. Make sure your children know they can come to you with their feelings, and that you will listen, even if you don’t share their concerns. As much as you can, reassure them that you will still love them unconditionally after the wedding, and help them understand why you have made the choice you did.
Get Your Kids Involved in Your Wedding
One good way to help your children share in your excitement is to get them involved in the big day. There are many inventive ways to allow children to participate in the wedding ceremony – from acting as flower girl or ring bearer to receiving vows from your spouse. Talk to each of your children separately about what part they would like to play in the big event, and give them each something special to make them feel important and involved.
Spend Time Alone with Your Kids, Even During the Honeymoon Phase of Your Marriage
In the early stages of dating, it can be natural to want to spend all your time with a new romantic partner. The same is true in the days following remarriage. However, this could alienate your children or make them feel like they have been replaced in your life. Set aside time to spend alone with your children, even when you are feeling your romantic love for your partner. If possible, continue little rituals that you and your children developed while you were single, like pizza night or weekend trips to the park. That will help your children handle your remarriage, without having to worry if they have a place in it.
Don’t Force Your Children into a Relationship with their Stepparent or Stepsiblings
It is natural for there to be tension between stepparents and stepchildren, as well as among stepsiblings in a blended family. Differences in family roles, expectations, and traditions can cause tension even during happy occasions. Your child may also harbor anger or resentment for your spouse due to their relationship with their other parent. It is important not to force this relationship too quickly. While your spouse should take active steps to build connections, you should avoid setting ultimatums beyond safety and respect.
If you have been a single parent for a while, having another parental figure in the home may seem like a welcome relief. But pushing your new spouse into a disciplinary role too quickly may hurt the chances that your children will develop a strong relationship with their stepparent. Instead, make sure disciplinary issues stay between you and your coparent. While your spouse may need to act to stop misbehavior while they are providing childcare, long-term punishments and serious discipline should be reserved for the child’s parents. Encourage your spouse to act more like a camp counselor or a coach, rather than a parent, at least at the start of your remarriage.
Work with a Psychotherapist to Help Your Children Handle Your Remarriage
For some families, the feelings around remarriage are tougher than others. If your child is uncomfortable sharing how they feel with you, or if they are unable to get past feelings of loss, grief, or resentment, you may want to enlist the help of a psychotherapist. This trained professional can give your children a safe, understanding, neutral adult who will listen to their concerns and help them process their emotions. By helping your kids learn new coping strategies, a psychotherapist can improve their relationships with parents and stepparents alike and make it easier for them to handle your remarriage.
David Stanislaw is a psychotherapist with over 30 years of experience. He helps children and adults adjust to remarriage and address other psychiatric issues. Contact David Stanislaw to get help today.