After going through a divorce, it is such an incredible feeling to find love again– but if you have kids from your first marriage, you have to rein in some of your enthusiasm and make sure you do not move things along too quickly. Children are fragile, and if they have already had to live through one major disruption to their household structure, they may not really share your enthusiasm about all of the sudden combining households with some strangers. If you have an only child, that little person probably has no clue what it is like to share mommy or daddy’s time, or toys, or space with anyone else. How do you prep a child for this rude awakening of real life? Very slowly and gently.
How can a child possibly imagine how much fun it may soon be to have a step parent or step-sibling, unless you explain the benefits? Focus on the positives and find work-arounds for some of the problematic issues. For example, you may not be able to force a child to share his toys, in which case, you need to set up a rule that if you don’t want to share, they need to stay in your room. How do you avoid turf wars? The easiest way to do this if at all possible is to not have one person move in with the other, but rather, you get a whole new place together. New house, new rules. This way no one gets blamed as the “meanie” that has now ruined things as they once were.
Change is scary to kids– even to some adults. I embrace change, but that is because I developed a high tolerance for this early on. As adults, we need to minimize the anxiety for our kids by providing reassurance. Let them know it is okay to voice concerns. Help them learn that change is a normal part of life, and many changes are actually exciting and can be quite good. Giving kids a heads up and realistic time-frame will help, but be prepared for some tears. For them, this might well be the final realization that any hope of a reconciliation between their parents is gone.
It is a simple fact of life–our joy is not always shared by others, so don’t expect a child to do cartwheels when you announce that you’ve fallen in love with someone else and are getting remarried. When the shock wears off, they are going to ponder for quite some time “what does this mean for me?” To us adults, it may seem so obvious that this is a good thing, but you are going to have to prove it to your kids. Over 70% of remarried couples fail– and it mainly stems from issues with the kids– so don’t rush things. We owe it to everyone involved to make this a success story, and I share these thoughts with the sincere hope that we will drastically improve the stats for blended families going forward.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.