If you think the divorce of their parents is the hardest thing your kids will experience in their childhood, consider how they may feel when you fall in love with someone new. Consider how it must feel to suddenly be informed of remarriage plans, and to be told they will become part of a whole new family, a blended family! If their new blended family includes step siblings, consider how life-changing that situation feels!
A wise parent is not surprised if her children balk at change after change. If you and your new partner are contemplating remarriage and the formation of a blended family, make this change a gradual undertaking the children can feel safe with. If your kids learned one thing from you divorce, they learned that not all adult relationships last. In fact, they probably see your romance as a temporary thing! They may not be willing to invest affection, or even polite behavior, toward your new partner.
A divorced parent newly in love generally feels very blessed to have found love again, and can get upset with a child who acts out or tries to sabotage the new relationship. If this describes your situation, try to remember that although you have fallen in love with this new and wonderful person, your child has not.Be patient, be considerate, and remain committed to making it work out for everyone concerned. Take your time. Make plans.Talk with your new partner about parenting, and how you see the roles of step parents and step kids in your future blended family. Decide how much authority each of you will have over step kids, how you will handle visitation, ex-spouses, and ex in-laws. Discuss how you will handle blended family finances, who will stay home from work with a sick child, where you will spend the holidays. If you just take the plunge and hope things work out, you put yourselves, and your children, at risk of failure and another loss.
Blended family already in the works?
If you have already become a step family by introducing a new live-in partner, or by remarriage, there are many ways you can still help your kids cope with their new roles as step kids or step siblings. As anxious as you are to be good and beloved step parents, try not to force acceptance or affection of your new partner. Children can, and often do, form extremely close relationships with stepparents, but they do it in their own time. Building a blended family is a slow process.
To help kids manage, make sure that:
- you make plenty of opportunitiesto be with your child without your partner being there all the time
- you do not force your childto acceptyour partner as a replacement parent
- you encourage and facilitate regular contact between your child and his other parent
- you and your partner always speak well of your ex-spouses, at least in front of the kids
- you allow step siblings time to bond, without rushing them
- you and your partner establish clear and consistent boundaries of behavior
Helping children fully integrate into a step family requires patience and understanding. As step parents, the best thing you can do for your kids is to maintain a strong relationship with each other. Your stability will provide security and a base from which they can feel safe enough to invest in their own step family relationships. For more information on how to manage your blended family life, visit The Blended and Step Family Resource Center.