Helping Children Adjust to Step-Parents

Divorce and separation are emotionally complicated times, not only for the spouses or partners involved but also for any children the parents share.  Separating into two households is a difficult time for the children, but typically children will adjust eventually to the “new normal.”  It is very common for one or both of the parents to eventually move on and maybe even remarry.  This time is exciting, but it can be challenging for the children.  If you are remarrying after a divorce or separation, there are some steps you can take to help your child adjust to the new step-parent.

One essential step is to do what you can to foster the relationship directly between the step-parent and the child.  If you can identify common interests between the step-parent and the child, they can spend time together on these interests.  For example, if the step-parent and the child both like baseball, playing catch, watching games on television, and going to live games are just a few examples on how they can bond over their shared interest. 

Another important element is not to force your child to love the new step-parent.  You may have fallen head over heels in love with your new spouse, but your child may still be mourning the loss of the former family unit.  Moreover, just because you have developed a relationship with your new spouse does not mean that your child is ready to move as fast.  Make sure you give your child the space and time he or she needs to develop respect and confidence in the new step-parent.  Forcing the issue is likely to make the child retreat even more and resist forming the bond.

Third, know when to seek additional assistance.  Family therapy can be extremely helpful when your child and your new spouse are experiencing difficulty in forming family bonds.  If you notice that your child is withdrawn, no longer shows interest or pleasure in a hobby he or she previously loved, or the child shows anger and hostility, it may be time to seek help from a family therapist, who can help you all transition to a new, cohesive family unit

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