You’re free from your old, poisonous relationship. You’ve found someone new who you love. Remarriage is shaping up to be the best time of your life.
That is, unless your children have something to say about it.
They were happy with their first pair of parents. What do they have to look forward to in your remarriage? Less of your attention, a new adult to boss them around, and a walking reminder of the loss they experienced over your first divorce? Sounds bleak.
Even if they like your new spouse and his or her family, they saw the first marriage fall apart. The threat of being separated from more loved ones, by a second divorce, ominously looms over them. Acting defensively, your children may try to end your new marriage before that bond can form.
And so, the sovereign nation of Yourkidslavia declares war on Newmarriagestan.
Here’s their battle plan:
Reunite Their Biological Parents
Children try to realize their fantasy of their biological mom and biological dad reuniting. Remarriage challenges that fantasy, kicking their scheming engines into overdrive. They frantically scramble for the best way to reignite their bio parents’ flame and snuff out that of the remarriage. This typically happens by building each parent up to the other, while marginalizing their step parent.
The children obstruct your family’s merging. They stress you and your spouse out and foment doubt as to whether you can successfully integrate as a family.
Validate your children’s feelings over the loss of the biological family. Just listen non-judgmentally, without focusing on right or wrong. Acknowledge that you hear what the child is feeling and that they have a right to feel that way, but make clear to them that they do not have the right to act out upon that desire by sabotaging your relationship with your new spouse.
- Reassure your spouse of your commitment to the marriage.
- Support your spouse when your children mistreat him or her.
- Listen to your children’s story about the fantasy they’re trying to recapture.
- Explain to your children that you’re happier now, with your new spouse.
Share Private Information With Your Ex
Children try to undermine your present marriage by violating your privacy. They share sensitive information which isn’t necessarily secret, but still material you’d rather keep private from your ex-wife or ex-husband. Your children do this because they feel powerless over decisions made by you and your spouse in your home. One of the few things they do have power over, however, is the leakage of information from your home into that of your ex.
It stresses your marriage as you and your spouse struggle to establish boundaries between past and present relationships.
Also, You and your spouse feel violated and betrayed by your children. You feel powerless because you can’t control what the children report or how your ex-spouse uses that information.
- Teach your children the values of respect, trust, integrity and honesty.
- Present your expectations of your children in an emotionally neutral way.
- Maintain transparency with your spouse regarding communication between you, your ex, and your children.
- Keep personal information between you and your spouse private. Your kids can’t share what they don’t know.
Set Your Remarriage Back With Backtalk
You found your soul mate; your children found a stranger in their home. You found a partner in parenting; your children found a new nag. You found a new love; your children found attention they want instead being lavished on some Jenny- or Johnny-come-lately who’s pushing onerous expectations.
Being caught in between your spouse in your children is overwhelming.
Your children are rude and disrespectful to you and their stepparent, causing tension. Your spouse may feel you’re not strict enough in your parenting, and powerless because you have the last word with your children. Meanwhile, you may feel like your spouse is overreacting, critical of your parenting style, and lacking empathy for your children.
Your conversations with your spouse increasingly focus on the children, who aren’t exactly making a pleasant topic of themselves, and so you and your spouse grow resentful and apart.
This problem is handled on two fronts.
- Nurture your relationship with your spouse. Schedule a regular date night and plan activities that both of you on enjoy, during which you focus on your relationship, not the kids. Develop a daily communication routine with your spouse. Make sure to spend 15-45 minutes of uninterrupted time to review pressing issues and daily events, and end with an actionable plan for anything that needs addressing.
- Spend time alone with your children weekly to reassure them of your love and commitment. Help them develop a relationship with your spouse gradually. Don’t force your children to love your spouse, but insist on them at least treating him or her cordially. Listen to your children’s insecurities without excusing them.
The couple relationship is the foundation of a happy, successful family. In remarriage, couple unity is especially crucial, as the adults formed the stepfamily to begin with.
On one hand, your children need to see a united couple. On the other, they need a devoted parent. Your commitment to fulfilling both roles may seemingly oppose, but empathy, love, discipline, and good communication will help you strike a healthy balance.
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