When divorce involves children, it can instantly become complicated. Once the dust of the divorce settles and the wounds heal, a parent may find themselves wanting to begin a new life with a new spouse. With the children, there is bound to be some resistance. The new spouse is not their natural parent, so they will probably not blend into a new family painlessly. However, there are some key tips to remember that can make this blending process even just a little bit easier.
- Remember respect: When new families blend together, there is no guarantee they will instantly feel like family. If there are two sets of children blending together, it will take some time for them to feel comfortable with one another. Even if they don’t necessarily like each other right away, it is important to remind your children to remain respectful at all times to both the new parent and the new siblings.
- Go slow: As mentioned above, it may take some time for the children to get to know the new family blending together. Allow this process to occur naturally, trying not to force anything quickly. Children also don’t react well to sudden, quick changes. The slower you can take things, the longer the kids will have to get used to the new situations.
- Don’t bribe the children: While it might be easy to promise toys for good, respectful behavior, it is not a sustainable system. You want to be able to leave the kids at home alone with the new family without worrying about them lashing out. Discipline the children when you see disrespectful behavior to correct them and avoid rewarding undesirable behaviors.
- Don’t ignore emotions: While it may be easy flex authority and force the families together, it is important to remember even the children’s emotions are valid. Hear them out, let the emotions be felt, and help them through processing all of the complex emotions they may be going through. Don’t ignore your emotions as the parent either. You are not going to fall in love with your new spouse’s children instantly, and you may feel frustrated with the process. Allow these emotions to show themselves and work through them in a healthy way.
- Discuss a parenting plan before the marriage: This is vital. Work out who is going to play each parenting role before the marriage takes place. You don’t want the children to blame the new spouse for changing discipline measures if it was your idea to begin with. Working on these things before marriage and before moving in together will help your child get used to them and see that they came from you. This will prevent the new spouse being associated as a bad cop.
Blending families post-divorce is never easy and there is no accurate how-to guide that will make it a painless process. These tips are small reminders of things to keep in mind while blending families that will make it a little smoother.