The Brady Bunch
Remarriage is one of the most common challenges facing children whose parents divorce. Children who have not adjusted to parental dating will have even more intense problems as they try to adjust to their newly blended family. Remarriage leaves no hope of the parents getting back together, although some children continue to fantasize about everybody living in one home again.
Children may also have to deal with step-brothers and step-sisters, new grandparents, aunts and uncles. They may find it hard to accept changes in discipline and the authority of the step-parent. They may be jealous of the time and attention given to the new partner, step-brothers and sisters. They may feel that they are treated unfairly compared to their new siblings. A new baby may also spark feelings of anger and insecurity. Parents may find that being aware of these issues can be useful as they help their children adjust to new situations.
Step-family relationships or “blended families” differ from original family relationships in many ways. When families are reorganized, children often experience having more than one “mother” or “father.” Most children adapt to this. Parents who have formed new relationships should make a special effort to spend time alone with their children. They need to know that they are part of the new life you are building.
The step-parent enters a new family group that already has a shared history, strong bonds and an established way of operating. Acknowledge that you will never replace their mother or father, and work on developing a unique relationship with the children. Encourage your step-children to honour and respect both of their parents and not to take sides. A step-parent can be a special friend to the children. Try not to compete with, replace or be critical of the other parent. When step-parents criticize the children’s parent, children feel worse about themselves and less loving toward the step-parent.
In many cases, step-parent and step-children are suddenly thrown together, without the chance to develop a relationship gradually. The clashing of different rules, goals, definitions of behaviour and methods of child rearing can cause many problems, and a satisfying relationship between step-parents and children usually develops slowly. This is not surprising, since closeness, affection, friendship and trust usually need time to develop.
Step-parents can help children deal with changing roles and circumstances by being patient and giving them lots of time to adapt to their personality and lifestyle.