Remarriage can be difficult, especially when hard feelings linger from a divorce. Sometimes parents will talk negatively about stepparents, or tell children they shouldn’t love the new stepmom or stepdad. This negative talk is confusing and unhelpful for children in a blended family. Remarriage should never be a constant battle for children’s affection, but rather an opportunity to show them how much love it is possible to give.
Remarried parents who take higher ground win the battle
When divorced spouses remarry it can sometimes trigger hostility toward the new stepdad or stepmom, especially if the divorce was tense and volatile. Sometimes, stepparents in a blended family feel as if they have to constantly defend themselves, playing a tit-for-tat game with the biological parent. When a biological parent tells a child he shouldn’t like or accept the new stepparent, or when the biological parent talks negatively about the blended family, it is very confusing. The last thing a child of divorce needs is to feel confused about the stepfamily situation or feel as if he or she has to take side. When faced with this dilemma, stepmoms or stepdads should let the child know that the behavior is not okay, while staying supportive of the biological parent’s role. Tell the stepchild, “Although we disagree with your mother [or father], we know that she [he] loves you. We love you and want what's best for you.” This lets the child know that the adult’s behavior is not okay and reinforces that the child is loved. Remarriage and divorce are adult situations and children should never have to participate in negative talk about biological parents and stepparents.
Remarriage is not a competition
Behaving as a spoiled child and demanding love and attention over a stepmom or stepdad is never okay. If your blended family is having difficulty with a biological parent pressuring your stepchild or stepchildren to show them favoritism or more attention during school events, it is okay to address the situation with your stepkid, preferably in a neutral place and time. Stay positive about the biological parent and his or her irreplaceable role in the child’s life, and stress that you love the child too, and that this is okay. Remarriage does not have to be filled with constant conflict and stepparents take the high ground will help calm the rough waters.
Be the normal parent!
Remarriage that brings on hostile attacks and negative talk from the biological parent should be explained to children by acknowledging the jealous or destructive behavior without condemning the source. Let the stepchild know that adults get jealous sometimes, just like children, but that there is enough love to go around for everyone. Remind children that stepparents have enough love to help raise them to be successful people, and strive to set a good example as the constant, normal parents. Remarriage is not about winning over the child, it is about helping them understand what is going on around them in a calm and collected manner. Reinforce the blended family expectations and discuss how difficult it is for adults to deal with the complicated emotions of divorce and remarriage.
If you need advice with your blended or stepfamily, The Blended and Step Family Resource Center is ready to assist you with its counseling and coaching services, as well as other resources aimed at promoting strong and successful blended and stepfamilies. Contact us today and let us help to provide you with answers.