May 10, 2012
By Tanya Glover
Once upon a time, a man and a woman would get married and have children. Together they would raise these children and watch them leave the nest. They would then retire and spend the rest of their lives in matching rockers. While this still does happen in the year 2012, it is not the norm anymore. With divorce rates soaring as high as they have ever been, step families are also classified as the norm. Even though this is a normal situation, there are challenges that a couple should think about before they say I Do again.
Any marriage that begins with children from previous relationships can cause some challenging situations. Before a person with children should remarry, they should confront three main issues in order to ensure that all is as harmonious as possible.
The Quality of Marriage Vs. The Quality of Parenting
- Finances and custody/living arrangements: The majority of people who are remarrying do not purchase a new home. Instead, they move into their new partner’s home. This may be good or bad depending on the couple and their situation. Personally, I would rather have a new home that is “ours” instead of living in his home which he once shared with his ex wife. It should also be taken into consideration where the children will be living. Making them feel at home wherever they are is the most important thing when it comes to the living arrangements. Also make sure that you both understand how the finances will be. Some couples wish to share and some wish to keep things separate. Many women who have step children wish for the finances to be kept separate so that it is their husbands that are paying the child support with their own money. This is a personal choice that should be discussed before the nuptials.
- Resolving Feeling: Getting remarried may bring up old and painful feelings from your first marriage. We never completely stop loving people; we simply love them in a different way than we originally did. It is important for both you and your children to confront any emotions before remarriage. Their feelings are just as important, if not more so, then yours are. You also want your relationship with your ex spouse to be a healthy as possible so your children are as healthy as possible.
- Expect changes in parenting styles: Everyone has their one way of parenting. Talk with your future spouse about these sort of topics so you can work together as a team when it comes to the children.
When a couple first gets married they may be so wrapped up in being in love that the children feel neglected. If they are already having difficulty managing their feelings about their mom/dad being in a new relationship, this will only add to their feelings of sadness and abandonment. Make sure that there is a certain time everyday that is just for you and your children. The new spouse can be inserted in that together time later- but in the beginning, they need to know that mom/dad is still on their side always.
Step Parent/Step Child Relationships
Being in a step family can be wonderful, but it can also present problems as well. How the step parent handles parental things may be quite different then how you or your ex spouse does. This is not as difficult when you remarry while the step child is at a young age because you kind of grow up along with them. However, coming into a step family that has a teenager can get messy since this is already a rebellious stage for a teen. The main thing is to help with the readjustment as best you can. Do not jump right into the “mom” or “dad” role. The best thing to do in the beginning is to form a friendly relationship. Relationships with children cannot be pushed as they are very fragile. When it comes to discipline, have a talk with the custodial parent to see how they think things should be handled. Different things work better for different families and no two are just alike.
The Absent Parent
The absent parent (the one which does not have the child living with them) should be included in the child’s life as much as possible. This will help keep the child emotionally balanced when a remarriage occurs. Research shows that when the absent parent visits consistently and stays active in their child’s life, the child is more likely to adjust to the remarriage better and more quickly. Otherwise, they will feel abandoned by the absent parent and the easiest person to blame for that is the step parent.
Being a step parent myself, I have seen and experienced some of these things. However, after being married for 6 years I have an excellent relationship with my step children- with my step daughter in particular. For me, I know my place in their lives. When they are in my home, I am in charge…I am mom even though we all know that they have a mother. My step son is at the age where he wants to be with dad all the time. However, my step daughter is almost 16 and she is one of the few bright lights in my life. We got to this point in our relationship because I did not try to play the role of MOM. We are more like friends than parent/child but she knows that I can be MOM when she needs me to be. This is what worked for me. Find what works for you and do your best for your family.