Q I’m planning to get remarried in April. I have two children, ages five and nine. My fiancé has a daughter who is 14 years old. I’m wondering what kind of behaviors my children and his child might exhibit before and after the wedding, especially when we all move in together. How can we get our two families to successfully blend?
A Children who have a parent who is remarrying can display a variety of emotions and behaviors. Some children carry feelings of insecurity and abandonment by their parents who is remarrying. Some children are aggressive to the stepparent, while others keep an emotional distance. Some children are jealous when their parent shows affection or attention to the stepparent. Kids who were hoping their divorced parents would get back together will experience disappointment when one of the parents remarries.
Here are my suggestions for helping your kids adjust to your remarriage.
- Leading up to the wedding, plan fun events for the children, your fiancé and yourself. Play competitive games where you are paired as a team with his daughter, and he is paired with your children. Set aside time for bonding. Remember to keep your expectations in check. Bonding with stepchildren takes time.
- Discuss how your bedrooms and bathroom areas will be assigned. Will stepkids share rooms? Talk with your kids to determine how they feel about sharing a bedroom. Be willing to adjust your vision of how a blended family will work. Make room for your child’s emotional and spatial needs.
- Talk with your future stepchild about “our home” instead of “my home.” It may be that your fiancé and his daughter may never think of your home as “our home.” If this happens, and you can afford it, buy a different home together with the kids involved in the selection. This helps create the idea of “our house.”
- Be intentional about scheduling time to spend with your fiancé’s daughter as well as time for your fiancé to spend time with each of your kids. Your soon-to-be stepdaughter probably hasn’t had to share her dad much. In April she will begin sharing her dad with you and her stepsiblings. Sit down with her to discuss quality time and where she values it most with her dad.
I suspect you and your fiancé will do a good job of blending your families. It takes effort to make a blended family work.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.