Step Parenting

A remarriage is very different from a first marriage. There are different combinations in a remarriage, each has its own unique difficulties and of course joys.

Source: Family Life

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A remarriage is very different from a first marriage. There are different combinations in a remarriage, each has its own unique difficulties and of course joys. For example both of you may have been married before, you may have no children or both have children. Only one set of children may live with you, the other visit occasionally or none of the children live with or all of the children. Whenever there are children in a remarriage there is movement in and out of your family and many different relationships to navigate and negotiate, as well as your own new relationship to build.

the myths about step-parenting, and the most well known one is that of Cinderella and the Wicked Step-mother, make it difficult for step-mothers and to a lesser extent step-fathers to be anything but wicked. Most step-parents have very high and realistic expectations of themselves and the children. They expect to recreate a nuclear family but by definition this isn’t possible, as one of the adults is not a biological parent; they expect everyone will love each other instantaneously and that they, the step-parent, can replace or make up for the loss of one parent through death or divorce. Children will always love their biological parents first BUT they will also, given the opportunity and time, grow to love the step-parent. Step-parents often believe they will feel the same about their step-children as they do about their own and when they don’t they feel very guilty.

In remarriage and step-families there is duplication. There are two mothers or fathers, one out of the home, four sets of grandparents and many extended family members, there may be children from the different families of exactly the same age. The family may have doubled in size, space becomes a problem. This can create stress and complicate relationships. The step-parent often has an ambiguous role, what is he expected to do regarding discipline in the family? What is he to be called? The step-parent has no legal rights over the step-children. Frequently, after a remarriage, there is an increased hostility towards the step-parent from the biological parent.

Money is often a problem in remarriage. The adults are frequently supporting another family or receiving maintenance for the children from the non-custodial parent. This can breed resentment and anger. Inheritance is another issue that may create problems after remarriage.

This is the general picture of remarriage. Here are a few guidelines that will help you to build your relationship and live in harmony with your new family:

  • Prepare the children for remarriage – explain to them who your mate is and what they should call him. Recognize that the children and the single parent often had a very close relationship and remarriage is a threat to this. Can you talk about and tolerate their fears and worries, the feelings of jealousy and disappointment?
  • Try to accept that your step-children may not like you (you may not like them). Your remarriage is your gain; you are in love, excited and happy. For the children it is often a loss, of the hope that Mom and Dad will get together, of the special relationship they had with the one parent, perhaps of their own house or room, of their role or status.
  • Give everyone time – remarriage creates an instant family- relationships are new and untested, you married your spouse and collected some children too, the children are forced to relate to you and to their step-siblings who they may never have chosen as friends, but with time these relationships will grow and everyone will adjust to the new family.
  • Talk about how you will bring up the children, who will do what, talk about the finances, is it your money, my money or our money. How do you feel about the maintenance issues? Make a joint plan of action for your family.
  • Discuss your feelings about the situation with each other and with the children. Allow them to express their anger, sadness, confusion. Give yourselves permission to like not love your step-children.
  • Become aware of the extent to which you have deal with the loss of your previous relationship or marriage – do you still feel angry, sad and a failure or have you let-go so that you can form a new relationship that is not too greatly influenced by your previous one.
  • Find time to be alone together when you will not even TALK about the children – but when you can keep the warm feelings you have for each other kindled and alive.

Remember you chose each other – give priority to being husband and wife – give yourselves a chance.

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