How Kids Are Affected When Parents Remarry
You are getting remarried. You are planning how to tell your kids. What kinds of reactions can you expect from them? What can you do to help your kids adapt to your remarriage?
Kids’ reactions to news of parental remarriage can run the gamut, and varies with the kids’ age, personality, recency of the parents’ divorce, feelings about the parents’ divorce, feelings about their lives post-divorce, and feelings about their soon-to-be new step-parent (among other factors).
Those who are more likely to adapt well to parental remarriage:
- Young kids
- Kids who are highly adaptable
- Kids whose parents have been divorced for years
- Kids who perceived their parents’ divorce as amicable and have accepted their parents’ divorce as final
- Kids who miss a sense of family post-divorce
- Kids who like their soon-to-be new step-parent
“Typical” reactions include the following:
- 1. Anger at the parent who is remarrying. This anger is usually a cover-up for fear, anxiety, insecurity, pain, helplessness, and a sense of being betrayed.
- 2. Depression
- 3. Acceptance
To help kids adapt to parental remarriage, here are some tips:
- Don’t expect all step-family members to love each other right away. Give it time. Be patient.
- Before the remarriage occurs, negotiate a successful agreement on how to handle step-children (how strict to be, when and how to discipline them, etc.)
- Let discipline be handled by the parent, at least initially (the step-parent should function as support for the primary parent)
- Encourage kids’ perception of their step-parent as non-critical and nurturing
- Provide the kids with frequent reassurance and as much information as is age-appropriate so that they know how their lives will be changing, what to expect, and that they will continue to be loved and attended to
- Maintain comfortable old routines (Sunday family days, camping each Memorial Day, etc.) and create new routines that will forge bonds
- Don’t exhibit defense reactions to things the kids say and do: if parents or step-parents exhibit defense reactions, kids will see that as reinforcing their fears of rejection that may come from the remarriage
While introducing your kids to the concept of your remarriage may not be a smooth and seamless process, it usually can be navigated to a successful outcome when the tips above are followed.
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