Marriages can be challenging, and they can be even more challenging when children and an ex-spouse from a previous marriage are involved. Romantics enter into relationships with rose-colored glasses, hoping that the new beginnings will lead to happy endings and a fantastic in-between. Sometimes, people do not anticipate the lack of bonding between stepchildren and their step parents. When they do, they imagine that it is just a passing cloud that they will quickly overcome, but sometimes it does not happen as fast. All is not lost though; here are some tips on how to handle second marriages and stepchildren.
- Be flexible with your parenting style. If you find that your partners approach to parenting is a little different from what you are used to, you could compromise a little to accommodate their style. This is especially applicable if their method does not harm the overall behavior of the children. You also need to give both your kids and your stepchildren plenty of time to adjust to the changes they are going to experience as step-parents come on board.
- Give priority to your marriage. Just because your first marriage did not work out does not mean that the second marriage will fail as well. Put the guilt feelings behind you and work towards giving your new spouse the very best of you. And just because there are step children involved, it does not mean that the marriage should come second as you put all your efforts into trying to impress the children.
- Set boundaries, early and often. If you do not make it clear to your new spouse and stepchildren what you expect from them, they will never give it to you. The first most important thing is R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and it applies to your spouse, biological children, in-laws, and step kids. Sometimes you will feel like an outsider in your own home but respectfully make known what your expectations are; what you can tolerate and what you cannot.
- Do not take it personally when your stepchildren overreact and behave irritatingly in the early days of the union. Sometimes they are grappling with mixed emotions and are trying to cope with the blended family. When the kids compare you to their biological parent, try not to let it get on your nerves. Simply strive to keep the stress out of your marriage.
- Do not be a doormat. While trying to keep up with the sensitivity and ever-changing emotions of your stepchildren, do not be hesitant to speak up and talk about discipline. If you say nothing every time they act weird, resentment will build up and soon you might find yourself unable to fit in the family. Strive to be on the same page as your spouse in matters of discipline.
- Doing date nights is okay. It is up to you and your spouse to show the children that second marriages can be a match made in heaven. Date nights are part of a thriving marriage and do not let the guilt of having to leave them behind with a babysitter pull you back.
- Don’t control your partner. Allow them to spend time with their kids without you in the picture. This will make the children see that you are not out to take away their biological parent and you have no insecurities. Their spending time together can include trips to the store, watching a movie together, or bedtime chats. Children can sense a lot from the way you let them relate to their parent.
- Never make your spouse choose sides. When you and your spouse disagree about something about your stepchildren, do not make them feel like they have to choose between you and their children. Avoid, at all costs, arguing with your spouse in front of the kids about a decision that has to be made concerning them. Putting your spouse in a situation where he feels like he or she is in the middle of you and his or her children is a step towards the failure of the marriage.
- Be fully prepared and know what you are agreeing to before saying “I do.” A blended family may take more time and energy to establish. Seek advice from people in blended families and learn from them. Each marriage is unique, but some things are common to second marriages where step children and step parents are involved. Do not be discouraged by the horror stories you will hear because they can happen in a first marriage too. If you know what you will get from the union, and are ready to weather the storm, go ahead and make your second marriage a rewarding experience.
- Seek professional counsel if the rough patches are more than you can bear. Sometimes the hitches that come with a second marriage may not wear off as quickly as you expect them to. They may even intensify during holidays and family occasions like graduations and birthdays. Sometimes it may seem like you are in a rut, and feel like you are not good enough as a step parent. If you still feel that the marriage can work with some help, do not hesitate to involve the support of marriage counselors. They will work with you and try to help you find balance.
Second marriages can work, probably better, than a first marriage. If you apply these ten tips, you will increase your chances of having a happy, blended family that no one would even think is a second family. Be careful about the advice you take from various books, blogs, and people, because not everyone will be genuine about their need to see you happy in marriage. Most importantly, make your partner your best friend, and you will realize how much easier it will be to bond and create lasting friendships with your stepchildren.