Unfortunately, second marriages have an even worse track record than first marriages. Part of this has to do with the kids, yours, his/ hers. Don’t get me wrong, it has nothing to do with the kids as people, the kids are all right. It has a lot to do with our feelings about them. And I mean kids all ages, including adults. So here are some basic tips to help your children, you and your new spouse adjust:
1) Remind your kids that they were conceived in love.
It’s important to remind your children that you love them and that you once loved your ex very much. And that every time you see the child, you are reminded of how much you loved him/ her. And then things changed. Whatever happens between both parents has nothing to do with them. The divorce wasn’t their fault, you will always love them. Saying “You’re just like your mother (or father)” should be the highest praise! If you need to vent about your ex, do so in therapy.
2) Prepare your kids
Remind the children that their mom /dad will ALWAYS be their mom/ dad. Your new spouse is just that, your new spouse, and NOT their parent. I’m sure you’ve read in countless books not to rush the kids into meeting your new beloved. If you are in a new committed relationship, it is up to you to tell them about it. I’ve met people who didn’t talk to their kids (according to age) about their new partner, and then expected the spouse to “win” the kids over relinquishing all responsibility. Being a parent, among other things, means helping your children adapt.
3) Get over your guilt
Maybe you never wanted your marriage to end. Maybe you feel bad about not being around enough or about not being emotionally available. It could be you don’t spend enough time with your children, or you spend too much time with them. Rather than deal with guilt, we usually try to squelch it. Guilt leads to self-hatred and makes recovery almost impossible. It can be a symptom of holding on to anger (towards your ex and yourself) and a lack of self-forgiveness. Take a moment to ask yourself if your guilt is allowing you to move forward in happiness in love, or is it holding you back? Does guilt build a better relationship between you and your children? EFT, also known as Tapping, can be of great help with this issue.
4) Politeness & manners.
You cannot expect or demand that children like or love your new spouse. Their attitude is their attitude, and they have every right to it. What you can expect -and demand- is courtesy, respect and politeness. Politeness is simply treating others as you would like to be treated yourself; it is taught and modeled by parents. Children of any age can be expected to say “Hello”, “Good-bye”, “Good Morning”, “Good Night”, “Please”, “Thank You”.
Manners are in decline, but it is a pleasure to sit at a table where people sit up straight, chew with their mouth closed, talk when they have no food in their mouths and where people are conscious of what they are eating and of the other people seated at the table. You should never allow your children to disrespect your new spouse. For that, you actually have to pay attention to what is going on, and listen when your spouse says your children lack manners and are not respectful. Remember, your childrens behavior towards your new spouse is your responsibility, tell them how you expect them to behave. Teach children that while they cannot always control the outcome of every situation, they can control how they respond.
5) Spend time with your kids on your own.
It’s your date night with your spouse, and your adult son is visiting you. Out of guilt you insist he comes along with you to dinner, and then you spend all the time talking to him and hoping your spouse will join in the conversation instead of the other way around. Let me tell you right now, this is a recipe for disaster. On your date night, go out with your date: your spouse. Plan another outing with your son, or your daughter, or your kids. Go out with them without your spouse. Give them your undivided attention, do something they like or want to do, go to “their” places.
Maybe your spouse is someone your kids would have liked on their own, but the place he/ she occupies in your life tends to make the relationship harder. Children are fiercely loyal to their parents. Maybe love will come in time, maybe it won’t, but these tips should help ease the transition.