My daughter hates her stepfather

You have married again, but how do you help your kid come to terms with his new stepfather or stepmother?


Dr Richard C. Woolfson

Children have a hard time when their parents divorce. Besides having to cope with the emotional trauma of living with one parent instead of two, there are often other devastating effects too, such as the move to a smaller house, less disposable income, less contact with the non-custodial parent and, perhaps even a change of school and friendships.

So you might reasonably expect your kid to welcome the prospect of you marrying again. After all, it’s a sign that your family is recovering and rebuilding as it moves forward to a new phase. 

Don’t be surprised, however, to find that your child  is less than enthusiastic about the prospect. You may be over the moon about entering marriage again, but he may be a lot more cautious.

Experience has already taught him  that marriages are not permanent, that mums and dads break up and separate and that children may have to live apart from a parent whom they adore. Don’t be surprised to find him in a foul mood when you first break the news to him. 
If, instead, he is extremely positive about the impending marriage, count yourself lucky and think of that as an unexpected – but extremely welcome – bonus.
There is also the fact that he is now used to having you all to himself.

Through the long and slow process of psychological adjustment following your separation and divorce, your child has gradually become used to having only one parent at home. And he enjoys having your undivided attention. He feels secure in the knowledge that you are there for him, ready to meet his emotional needs.

No wonder he feels threatened when you tell him about your marriage plans. He may only be a kid, but he is smart enough to know the implications this has for the amount of time you will spend with him alone.

Although you know that re-marriage won’t change your love for your child, he doesn’t know that. He will learn in time that having a parent and step-parent is much more positive than he ever could have imagined. In the meantime, however, he could experience jealousy, fear and insecurity.

Of course, you are excited at the thought of marrying again – this cements the new relationship in your life, opening up all sorts of opportunities for personal growth and development.
And of course you fully realise the positive impact that a return to two-parent family status will have for your child. The problem is, though, that your child needs to be convinced – he doesn’t immediately see the plus side of your possible re-marriage.

That’s why you need to take his feelings seriously. Make time to discuss your marriage plans with your child. Spell out all the advantages this will bring him personally, such as having another caring adult in his life, more fun as a family at the weekends, a higher family income and so on.
Highlight the benefits for him, not just for you or for your family as a whole.

Let him complain or ask you questions or voice his fears – in fact, let him react in any way he wants. However, talk in a way that confirms that your marriage plans are not open to change; he must realise that it’s a case of “when” you remarry, not “if’” you remarry.
Respect his views and offer a positive response to every one of his anxieties. He needs reassurance from you at this vulnerable time in his life. You and your eight-year-old will re-visit this topic again and again in your conversations until he is comfortable with the idea.

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