Getting remarried when you have children can make for a tricky balance. Children sometimes pull away from accepting a new step-parent and it can make things really complicated. Blending two families in real life usually doesn’t go as smoothly as it did on the Brady Bunch.
Grief Process for Kids
Just like adults, kids need time to grieve the losses in their lives. And kids can grieve differently and on a different timeline from one another. If you enter into a new relationship too soon, you risk interrupting their grief.
Whether you’ve been widowed or divorced, your child will need to grieve. Young children aren’t likely to understand the finality of the situation and when parents divorce, they usually hold out hope for a long time that their parents will get back together. So when a new partner is introduced, that person often is seen as the major barrier to parents reuniting. As a result, the new partner often gets the brunt of the anger.
It’s best if parents can hold off on introducing a child to a new partner for as long as possible to ensure that they can work on accepting the situation and then grieving their losses. The problem often becomes when a parent is ready to cohabitate or gets remarried and a child isn’t yet ready.
Often parents grieve the loss of their marriage for months or even years leading up to divorce or separation. However, kids don’t begin grieving until after the divorce has happened.
If you’ve already gotten remarried and your child isn’t accepting of your spouse, it is important to examine your child’s grief process. If your child didn’t take time to grieve the changes and the losses, he isn’t likely to accept your new spouse until that has happened. So, don’t rush anything and allow your child to grieve before trying to force a new relationship on your child.
Work on the Relationship Before Attempting to Discipline
Before a step-parent can step into the role as parent, there must be a relationship developed. A step-parent should spend time simply getting to know a child before trying to lay down the law. If a step-parent comes into the home and changes the rules and tries to discipline too soon, it can cause the child to feel angry and hostile.
There’s no set time frame for how long it takes to develop a relationship with a step-child. It depends on a lot of factors, including the child’s temperament, how the birth parents get along, and the child’s grief process.
The two of you should work together to create rules to ensure the child behaves respectfully to your new spouse. Just because your spouse isn’t going to be a disciplinarian right away, it doesn’t mean he has to be a doormat. The child should not be allowed to behave in a disrespectful manner toward your new spouse.
Give Your Child Quality Attention
A child will need your quality attention more than ever if you’ve entered into a new relationship. It’s helpful to show kids that they are still important to you and that just because you’ve gotten remarried, it won’t change your relationship with them.
Once kids have this reassurance about the security of your relationship, it can help them let their guard down. Keep the lines of communication open and talk to your child about his fears, sadness or anger about the situation.
You Can’t Control Your Ex
If you have an ex-spouse who talks badly about your current spouse, it is going to affect your child. You can’t control your ex-spouse’s behavior or what he says to your child.
If ugly things are said about your current spouse, don’t stoop to the same level. Speak respectfully about your ex-spouse in front of your child. Allow your new spouse’s character to speak for itself. If your ex-spouse calls your new spouse names, your spouse’s character and behavior should prove otherwise. Your child will see for himself what is true and what isn’t.
Often kids experience a lot of divided loyalties. It can take a lot of time to learn that you can love many adults at once, even when all the adults don’t love each other. Even older children and teenagers often struggle with this concept. Providing your child with a loving, nurturing environment will help your child through this process.
Seeking Professional Help
Counseling can be very helpful when you are combining two families. Marriage counseling can assist you and your new spouse with understanding your roles in a blended family. Family counseling that involves the children can sometimes be helpful as well. And sometimes individual therapy for children can be helpful to assist them with the changes and with their grief.