There is a complexity in new familial arrangements that requires adjustment from all members. Your children are stressed by the physical and psychological changes that preceded and result from their family-system reorganization. Your ex is adjusting to life with a new family.
Then there's you. Things may not have worked out as you planned. One thing is certain; life after divorce is in flux, and you don't have control over many of the changes. But there are things you can control. Attitude is one. There are, and will be, ongoing changes and negotiations you didn't count on. You are adjusting to sharing parenting roles with a person (and possibly ex-partner) who may not welcome (or may resent) your presence. You might be adjusting to having the children out of your home (and under your wing) for days, weeks, or months at a time. You may also be in the midst of deciding which battles to engage, and which to leave alone. You may find yourself feeling more possessive, and even obsessive, about your children, calling your ex's home daily to check on your kids, wondering what's going on. Resentment and frustration can build, and you may have difficulty shielding the children from your emotions.
It may be tempting to share your anger and frustration with your children, but spare them. It is in your best interest to encourage a positive relationship between yourself and the step-parent which can only benefit your children (and likely keep your health intact). Deal with your own feelings, especially if you feel like you are being left behind. Talk with others, seek counseling, plan events or sign up for a class, volunteer to serve meals at a shelter, or work out at the gym during the times that are most likely going to trigger your longing for your children (early evening, most likely). You must learn to go with the flow lest you become hopelessly mired in your own anger, regrets, or disappointments. Also, remember, these relationships will evolve over time and your entire life choices are not to be determined by what your ex is doing in his life.
Your children may have mixed feelings, among them, confusion. At times they may feel relief, and at other times guilt for feeling relief. If your children are angry, give them the room to express their feelings without fear of repercussions. Let them talk about the new family, but don't join in their negativity; hard as it may be, try to empathize with them. They may like their step-mother but may feel disloyal to you if they allow that feeling in. Regardless of how you feel, be mindful about not allowing your feelings to determine how your child feels about the new relationships.
Although it can be extremely challenging, make an effort to develop a working relationship with the new step-parent. Most likely there will be times when your ex is unavailable and you will need to make visitation arrangements or discuss potential problems pertaining to the children with his new wife. Look for common ground. Developing a cordial relationship with her can make it easier to feel less as the 5th wheel and more as the primary parent that you are.
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