When Your Kids Have to Get Used To a New Step-parent
After the emotional roller coaster of a divorce, parents and children need space to recover and get back on their feet. Hopefully, with time the family can begin to rebuild and get used to their new circumstances. At some point, one or both parents will probably start dating and may even end up meeting someone they want to marry. Although it can be hard on your kids when they have to get used to a new step-parent, there are ways you can help them with the transition.
Let them Express Themselves
While every situation can be different, it’s common for children to have mixed feelings about their parents’ divorce and remarriage. Kids can feel like accepting this new person is a disloyalty to their other parent. They can also be resentful that their mom or dad’s new partner is taking too much attention away from them. These are difficult emotions which your child may need help processing.
One way to be supportive during this time is to provide a safe space for your child to express how they feel. For the parent getting married, your child may need reassurance that they will still be important to you even when there is a new step-parent or stepsiblings. Letting your child know it’s okay to share their feelings, good or bad, is an essential part of helping them get used to this change. It may also be a good idea to consider going to a family therapist who can help everyone work through their feelings regarding this new dynamic.
Make Time for the Two of You
When a new step-parent is included in everything that you do with your child, your child may feel hurt and angry but not feel comfortable telling you. While it's important to help them get used to their step-parent, it is also vital to remember your child may be feeling a sense of loss. Having to share your time and attention with this other person can be threatening. If your child perceives your new partner as a competitor for your attention, it is unlikely they will want to work toward bonding with them. By making sure to take time to do things which are just about the two of you, you are letting your child know you prioritize your relationship with them. Getting this kind of message can help them feel more secure regarding the changes in your home.
Create a Tradition for the New Family
When you begin a new life as a step-parent, it can be hard to establish a routine. While your child may have met and spent time with their step-parent and step-siblings, once the marriage happens, he or she is going to have to adjust to sharing your time and home with them. It can be helpful to come up with a family tradition for your new group. Having regular sheared experiences such as board game night, or taco Tuesday, gives everyone a reason to sit down and spend time as a new blended family and can help strengthen bonds.
Breaking the news about a new step-parent to your child is not the end of the conversation. Check in with them as the relationship develops, and give your kid frequent opportunities to tell you how they are doing. It will also serve as a reminder that you care about their feelings. You may also want to watch for non-verbal signs of distress or changes in his or her behavior. You know your child and their preferred communication style best. Whatever you decide to do, just make sure you are paying attention to the situation and regularly communicating with them about how they feel.
Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience connecting clients with the right family support resources both during and after divorce. Call us and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.