I recently read a book by Sue Miller called Lost in the Forest that focuses the lens on the way remarriage affects kids.
In a nutshell, Eva is the divorced mother of two little girls who grapple with their allegiance to their two fathers when she remarries. Daisy, the younger daughter, has difficulty articulating her feelings. John, her stepfather is able to draw her out. He is sensitive, caring. When he asks: "How is your life different from the way you would have liked it to be?" Daisy did not have to think about her answer.
She told John she wished her parents hadn't gotten divorced and that they still lived in the house up in the hills. Then, she added, ‘But then I wouldn't have you..."
To Daisy's way of thinking, stepdad the new improved version of her biological father, who tries hard to be a good dad, but lacks stability. Not only is John there for her, he makes her mother happy and he can provide the family with the comforts they've lacked.
Not all children, obviously, latch on to their stepparent. You just have to read Snow White to know stepparents — particularly, step-moms — get a bum rap. According to the experts, children between ten and fourteen years old usually will have the most difficulty adjusting to their parents' remarriage.
While you cannot force kids to be head-over-heels thrilled with a blended family, you do need to be empathetic and positive. I learned some great tips from parents I interviewed for my book Your Child's Divorce: What to Expect ... What You Can Do. Here's how you can help smooth the way for children when you contemplate remarriage:
1. Acknowledge that your child is struggling to understand his or her place in the new order. Is he making a transition youngest to oldest or vice versa? What does that mean in terms of his role and identity?
2. Discuss her concerns about moving, sharing space, changing schools and leaving friends behind.
3. It is important to allow sufficient time for your child to get to know the step-parent to be. Zero in their common interests and provide opportunities for them to meet on their terms.
4. Caution Mr. or Ms. Right about trying too hard to win your child over. Kids will be suspicious and retreat if your new love is overzealous.
5. Understand that if you are improving your economic situation and your ex is still trying to make ends meet, it's possible your child will feel guilty that you are better off while the other one is still struggling.
6. Enlist the support of friends and relatives to help welcome the intended into the family.
Understand that your child is being thrust into a situation he or she did not make — similar to your divorce. It will take time for your son or daughter to give your remarriage the stamp of approval. Give them room to adjust and the freedom to express their feelings.
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