Assuming a new role of a stepparent can be overwhelming and exciting. Many adults want to step into their new role right away, taking on the responsibility of being an additional parent to the child. Though it’s great that a new stepparent is eager to be another support system for the child, children often need time to adjust to this lifestyle change.
Though there will be an adjustment period, fear not – children often accept their new stepparent with open arms over time. The first step to helping the stepparent adjust to their new role is to prepare the child for their new stepparent. Continue reading for some tips on how to prepare children for a new stepparent for a smoother transition.
- Validate Their Feelings
How did your child feel when you introduced them to your new partner? Were they over the moon excited? Were they upset? Did they lack emotion and instead internalize their feelings? Hopefully, they’ve gotten used to having their future stepparent around and feel comfortable enough for you to marry this person. If they are excited, great! If not, you’re not alone.
Children can feel lost when a parent remarries. They feel as though their other parent is being replaced or they’re being abandoned when that simply isn’t the case. The first step to preparing a child for a new stepparent is to validate their feelings. Allow them to feel their emotions, whether positive or negative, about your new marriage.
Letting them express their true feelings with you gives them a safe space to be heard and it shows that you care. Once they express how they feel and you’ve listened, you can offer your emotional support while also helping them feel better about the transition.
- Have The Biological Parent Spend One-on-One Time With the Child
Often, when their divorced parent starts dating again or enters a new serious relationship, children feel replaced. While it simply isn’t true, their feelings are valid as they may not be able to comprehend that although you’re in a new relationship, they’re always going to be the most important in your life. When that parent gets engaged and marriage is imminent, children can feel those feelings of abandonment all over again.
If you’re the biological parent of the child, make sure you spend one-on-one time with them both before and after you remarry. Even if they’re receptive to the idea of a stepparent or if they’re the complete opposite, it’s important to show that you can and will always make time in your schedule to spend one-on-one time with them. Take some time each week to do something they love with just the two (or more if you have multiple children) of you, whether you play video games, go to the movies, or spend time outdoors. Spending quality one-on-one time with them before and after you remarry will show them how important they are to you.
- Have The Stepparent Spend One-on-One Time With The Child
If your child still hasn’t warmed up to your significant other, you may be nervous about how they’ll act toward them when they make the switch from your partner to their stepparent. A great way to break down their walls when it comes to your other half is to have their future stepparent spend one-on-one time with them.
Odds are your partner and your child have something in common. It could be a movie they both enjoy, a sport they both love, or even a board game they both like to play. Whatever the case, have them spend quality time together without you. While you’re absent, your child will view their future stepparent as an individual and learn more about them through shared experiences. Doing an activity they enjoy is a great way to bond and build a strong relationship.
- Keep Constant Communication Going
Just like when you communicated with your child during the divorce process, it’s crucial to keep open and constant communication before and after you remarry. Listen to how they feel and gently express your feelings. You can both be open and honest about how you feel during this lifestyle change so you can be empathic toward one another. Healthy communication is key in the relationship with your child and others.
- Relax – It Takes Time
Throughout the process, remember that it takes time for a child to accept a new person as a stepparent. According to the American Psychological Association, children ages 10-14 have the hardest time adjusting to a new stepparent. There is no “one size fits all” for families that are going through a remarriage; there is no specific timeline as to when a child will accept a new stepparent as a new parental role in their lives. Relax and know that it will take time. To help nurture the process, you may want to consider family counseling for you to all cope with this new lifestyle change.
- Communicate with Your Co-Parent
Often times, your former partner hears of your new relationship from the children. They may not be prepared to handle the children’s questions and may have questions of their own. Communicating with your former partner about your new partner or even affording them the opportunity to meet one another may be a good opportunity to clarify any questions the parents may have, discuss how to share this information with the children, and be prepared to answer any of the children’s questions.
Adding a stepparent to a family is hard on children. They need to learn to accept your new soon-to-be spouse and accept their role as a new parent in their lives. Following the tips above can help make the transition a little smoother.
Though you’re in a new relationship, you may still be going through the divorce process or a custody case and may be looking for a family law attorney in Kansas (in and around the Leawood area) or a family law attorney in Kansas City and the surrounding area – The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC can help. We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through any family law matter, keeping your best interests in mind. With over fifty-four years of combined legal experience, our family law firm is comprised of a team skilled in negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.
We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, Platte County, Missouri, and Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we can meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.