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How to Help Your Child Accept a Second Marriage
26 Aug 2008 9:12 PM by Sachin Gupta
On announcing your forthcoming second marriage, your 6 to 11 year old child has reacted negatively - what should you as a mother do to make it easier? When you're faced with your child's pain and anger during a time of your happiness, it can be a turbulent time. This article presents some ways to help your child come to terms to the new arrangements and learn to accept your impending blended family.
Reassure your child. Even if your child gets along well with your fiancé, remarriage often revives the pain of divorce. Also, through loyalty or fear of betraying his father, your child might want to refuse to participate or help. It is important to reassure him, to tell him that you understand and respect his decision. Prepare him for a solution that lets him off the hook; such as going to his father's place or a friend's place during the wedding. He mustn't feel abandoned but it's important that his refusal to attend won't influence your decision to go ahead. Whatever happens, your marriage will occur because it's a matter for the grown-ups to make decisions about their own lives.
Understand her worries. She may be afraid that perhaps she'll be called upon to move, to share her room with a half or step-sibling. She may be worried about what will happen to her daily play routine, vacation plans and general activities. On the other hand, it may well be that a new marriage will bring about an ease in financial constraints so it is important to be honest and explain how change is always hard for everyone but that there will be some very good changes that come out of the new family situation. Point out how there will be easier ways to do things with more people on board to help out. It is important to be frank, because she will feel betrayed if you try to gloss over the challenges. Reassure her that despite the changes, her relationship with both her parents remains one of love, support and respect for her. And let her know that despite the new marriage, you will be still be there for her, together planning the future, with her as she grows up and supporting one another.
Make it clear that love between adults is not something a child can change. Gently help him to understand that whilst he can manage his toys, homework and choice of clothes, he cannot influence his parent's love life, whether it be divorce or remarriage. In discussing this, never use negative words about him - a child all too easily assumes responsibility for the single parent and can feel a sense of personal blame. Ensure that he does not have any such negative feelings and reassure him that when it comes to affairs of the heart, feelings and love, much cannot be explained and that things just "are". Tell him also that the joy of one person does not equate with the sadness of another - there is room for all the family to feel joy at the coming marriage.
Approach new names with great care. Unless there are very good reasons, it is not a good idea to change a child's last name; it is a threatening challenge to both her personal identity and her connection with her father. It is better to reassure your child firmly that she will keep her father's name and that nothing changes. In terms of a name for the new spouse, discuss this directly with your child and let your child come up with a nickname for her new parent. Finally, explain to her that she has the right to love her new parent without this love taking the place of her love for her father. There is room for both people in her life and if both her father and new parent take their roles seriously, she'll discover the delight of having more people caring about her welfare and needs.
Be patient. A very stubborn refusal that includes rebelliousness and anger won't be resolved overnight. Talk to your ex-husband to get support for helping your child through this transition. If he hasn't remarried before you, odds are he will be in the future, so either he'll have already been through it or he'll be open-eared about what he will experience should this happen to him as well. Show openly to your child that you and your ex-husband still have your child's concerns at heart first and foremost in your discussions; this isn't the time for dragging through old hurts but it is a time for putting your child's concerns first.