Second Marriage With Stepchildren

Whether it has been six months or six years, the impact of a divorce can have a lasting impact on children. As a stepparent, it can be difficult to navigate this sensitive topic with your stepchild. However, without discussing their feelings and addressing their concerns, kids are prone to developing behavioral and mental health issues. Thus, when you’re entering a second marriage with stepchildren, how do you help cope with this massive change?

“Divorce is a journey that the children involved do not ask to take. They are forced along for a ride where the results are dictated by the road their parents decide to travel.”

Diane Greene 

Put Your Stepchild First

The decision to raise a child is the choice to put this person ahead of yourself. The job of a parent is to always prioritize the best interest of the kids. This does not mean staying in a bad marriage or letting them do whatever they want. However, it does involve you building a relationship with your partner’s ex. 

While it is possible that there will be some contention, especially if they were not the person to end the marriage, they are also the parent of your stepchild. It is likely your stepchild misses them and feels as if her father is replacing their parent. These feelings of betrayal will not only bring them stress and anxiety, but it may also cause the two of you to not form a positive bond. 

Therefore, make an effort to get to know their biological parent. Ask them out to lunch and discuss your child together. Not only is it important for you two to be on the same page when it comes to parenting your child, but it can give your stepchild the peace of mind that they don’t have to tiptoe around everyone’s feelings during holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. 

Second Marriage With Stepchildren

Engage in Open Communication

Researchers at Kansas State University note that “stepchildren may feel the stepparent is an unwanted intruder into their family life. They also can feel like outsiders when the parent gives attention to the new stepparent.” This can lead to feelings of mistrust and doubt in you as a person. The best way to overcome this hurdle is to readily share your feelings and to show a genuine interest in your stepchild.

If they feel as if you are a person that they can confide in, then they are more likely to speak openly about the way they feel about your presence and their father’s separation from their mom. When they are struggling to reveal their true emotions and apprehensions, find ways to relate your own experiences to theirs and create a conversation to help mend their heartbreak. 

Don’t Be Afraid Of Sensitive Conversations

It is important to remember that for a child, a divorce can almost feel like a death. While this person is clearly still around, they are no longer always there. Life also tends to get in the way, making the parent with the main custody the primary person they see, leaving the alternate parent in almost a distant relative type role. 

Unless this person was abusive or engaging in dangerous activities, this individual needs to remain an active part of your child’s life. Not just physically, by mentally and emotionally as well. This means pushing your feelings aside and having honest, positive, and constructive conversations about their other parent. It also means asking questions and giving your child opportunities to regularly see this important person in their life. 

Use phrasing like “I know how much you miss having your mom around. Would you like to have her over for lunch or a game night tomorrow?” or “Why don’t you call your dad and see if he would like to go to the park with us as a family?”. 

You may not consider this person a part of your family unit, but they are a part of your stepchild’s universe. Making a point to keep them present, even when they are not around, can help your stepchild with their grief.

Pay Attention To Signs Of Distress

Signs of anxiety and stress manifest differently in every single person. This is especially true for children. It is important to look at the big picture to help diagnose the problem. Kids will many times begin wetting the bed, complaining of stomach pain, or developing irrational fears. They can also exhibit a loss of appetite, aggressive behaviors, or sudden sleep disorders.

Pediatric psychologist Dr. Rachel Lilly notes that “If left undiagnosed and untreated, an anxiety disorder can worsen over time, causing significant disruptions in a child’s life.” When these types of behaviors arise, make a point to talk to their doctor about ways to help them cope and what to do if the issues continue to progress. It is imperative that you remain proactive and recognize that divorce can be a trigger for these types of actions. Why?

Research has documented that parental divorce/separation is associated with an increased risk for child and adolescent adjustment problems, including academic difficulties (e.g., lower grades and school dropout), disruptive behaviors (e.g., conduct and substance use problems), and depressed mood. Offspring of divorced/separated parents are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, live in poverty, and experience their own family instability.” 

Form A United Front 

This study that was conducted by World Psychiatry also notes that one of the best ways to avoid these types of long-term problems is to prioritize finding a way to make joint custody work. Moreover, speaking well of the other parent, avoiding long commutes to see this crucial person in their life, and figuring out ways to coexist in this new normal is imperative for the wellbeing of your child. 

You are a part of a blended family now, and even though this child is not your blood, you need to be involved in bridging the gap. Parents, stepparents, grandparents, and any other active people in the child’s life need to be on the same page. Additionally, remember to be patient. It can take as much as two years for this adjustment to become comfortable and for everyone to coexist in a positive way.

Have compassion and empathy for everyone involved and try to be the bigger person. You need to be a person that your stepchild can lean on especially if you are entering a second marriage with stepchildren. 

Final Thoughts 

Being present is the most important job of any parent. If your stepchild has is having trouble with the new marriage, let them know that you are there. You are not a replacement. You are a confidant, a supporter, and a loving member of their new family. Creating a special bond with your stepchild will not only help them to cope with the divorce, but also the loss of a loved one, future breakups, and any other heartbreak that comes their way in life. 

Furthermore, tell them that you love them and that you are sorry. Remind them that things will not be bad forever and that time will make the transition easier. Lastly, make a point to distract them with activities and excursions that will take their mind off of their sadness.