Mike and Carol Brady made it look so easy. Aside from a few spats between the kids, it was a seamless transition for the two of them to have six children together and all become one big, happy family. Unfortunately, life is not made a happy-go-lucky sitcom and your kids may not be eager to stand beside you on your wedding day. It's important to help your child deal with remarriage in a way that will make them more comfortable with the changes. After all, they didn't choose this life, right? You chose it for them.
But your happiness and life are important, too and it seems other divorcees are learning this, too. A report conducted by Pew Research Center in 2013 found that one in four marriages included at least one partner that had been married previously. And that number continues to rise. In 1980, there were only 22 million people in the United States who had been married more than once, but the Pew Research Center 's recent findings clock that number was at 42 million. Add in that the National Parents Organization reported that 30 percent of children in America are growing up in a stepfamily, and you can understand why remarriage is such a big deal for your children.
It may not be quite as taboo or 'different' anymore, but this is your kid you're talking about — not all of America. Your child may have trepidations about becoming part of a new family. They may act out, hurt your feelings, or even proclaim that they hate their future stepparent — and all are totally normal. It doesn't matter how long you've been separated from their other parent, or how good your relationships are, your kid is bound to have some emotions about the entire situation.
These nine tips to help your child deal with remarriage aren't guaranteed to fix everything, but maybe they can give both of you some ideas on how to make this remarriage feel less like a new life and more like a journey the two of you are taking together.
1. Talk to Your Child With Their Other Parent
Hear me out on this one. If you and your ex co-parent well together and your child is growing up knowing they have both of their parents' unconditional love, it may help to talk to them about the transition together. Sometimes, children still hold out hope that their parents will eventually get back together and a lot of hurt feelings can come from guilt or fear of what their other parent may think. Let your ex calm your child down, if they're upset, by reminding them that they are also happy, that this is a good, healthy thing for everyone, and there's nothing to be worried about.
2. Spend Quality Time Together
Of course you want to have your child bond with their new stepparent, but you also need to keep the relationship you and your child have strong. Plan a recurring date or activity for just you and your child to do. Spend lots of quality time together and make sure they know that your new spouse isn't taking your place.
3. Don't Force A Relationship
You can help their relationship along by reminding both of them of things they have in common or encouraging interaction, but don't try to force it. If you push too hard, your child will have no motivation to bond with their stepparent and may resent you for trying to make it happen on your terms.
4. Let Your Child Speak
Ask your child how they feel about your marriage and let them speak openly and honestly. They are allowed to have opinions and feelings on the subject and knowing that you let them speak their mind will keep your communication open and healthy.
5. Let Them Be Involved
Have a little girl that loves a sparkly dress? A son who loves public speaking and writing poems? Get them involved in your nuptials. Make them part of the process and part of the wedding. Have your new spouse recite their own vows to your child or let your child speak at the wedding. No matter how you do it, having your kiddo as part of the wedding plans and ceremony will make them feel important and reassure them that they matter.
6. Make The New House Feel Like Home
It doesn't matter if you're all finding a new place together, if your spouse is moving in with you and your child, or if you and your kids are moving into your spouse's home, the house has to feel good to your children. Let them choose their bedrooms, help your spouse move in, or even decorate. It's their home too and you can ease a lot of worries and fear by making it feel like home.
7. Keep Some Things The Same
So you and your kiddo used to have a Friday night pajama party in your bed with cookies and Disney flicks ,and now your child's terrified that it's over since you share a bed with your spouse. But does it have to be? If your partner's on board with hanging in the living room for the night (or your child is eager to invite your SO into the party), try and keep the traditions going. This is a crazy, confusing time for a little one and reminding them that you still love the things you always did with them can keep them from getting jealous and resentful.
8. Don't Play Two Against One With Your Child
Eventually, you and your spouse may feel comfortable disciplining your child together. But at the beginning, it can be a lot on your kid if you and your partner are immediately a team doling out punishments. Your child may feel as if they're being ganged up on or alienated. Continue to handle your child's behavior as you always did and, eventually, when everyone is settled, your spouse may feel comfortable enough in helping you.
9. Talk To A Professional If Needed
Your child may have a lot of feelings about this marriage that they aren't willing to say to you. Maybe they don't want to hurt your feelings or maybe they're uncomfortable sharing some of their thoughts. If this happens, it may be time to seek professional help. Often, a therapist or counselor (or even a family friend) can offer impartial wisdom and advice to your child, and your kid will feel comfortable talking to them since they have no personal connection to the situation.