The first step to a healthy remarriage is you. Is this a surprise? Life wounds all of us. The losses, disappointments and hurts of life will not heal themselves—you must choose to heal. In fact, you will not grow until healing has taken place—and this takes time. Jeff and Judi Parziale
A new marriage can bring much joy and happiness to a new husband and wife, especially after the pain and despair of a divorce or a death. And blending your new family by bringing your children together with your spouse’s can also be wonderful and expansive, however it is usually not without some challenges.
The Child’s Or Adolescent’s Needs:
Even if the children are looking forward to the experience because they like the new spouse, it will still be an adjustment to live with new rules and new people in the household. Just as it would be tough for us to live with a few strangers in our household, the same is true for our children. And even if the relationships between new spouses and children are smooth and loving, there are likely to be uncertainties and miscommunications.
Children of any age, from toddler to teen, may experience some uncomfortable emotions during this transitional phase. From guilt over “replacing” mom or dad, to frustration with new siblings, children may voice or act out their feelings in various ways. And the dynamics of the situation might also be different if the parent is a widow or widower versus both spouses being divorced. With a death to contend with, it might be even harder for a child, adolescent or young person to see another parent as a replacement.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation:
The key to any successful blended family is preparation on the part of the adults. The more preparation there is in advance the more likely that the transition will go well. If you’ve met someone with children of his or her own, and are headed in the direction of marriage, then it’s helpful to already begin cultivating relationships with the other children.
Some other ideas:
- The importance of attention cannot be overlooked – even just twenty minutes of undivided attention with both your biological and stepchildren can be a game-changer.
- Setting up ground rules: what are the rules that were established in the old household? Which ones would both sides like to keep in the new household? It may help to write down the rules for the house.
- Perhaps allowing each child’s biological mom or dad to be the disciplinarian, at least until the transition phase (however you define it) is passed. This may give children a sense of safety, security and continuity.
For more tips on how to successfully bring together two families, including a special section for stepmothers, please see my article on blended families.
My wish for you today is to find something unique and amazing to love about each member of your family.
---- Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD, Director.