Five Things to Know if You’re Marrying Someone with Children
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my adjustment to accepting my children’s new stepmother. This week is about transitioning to being a step-parent. When my husband and I married, he had been single for 17 years and had no children. Although he seemed to handle it well, I’m sure there were times he wondered why he had gone from a peaceful, solitary life to a loud, crazy life with three females and three cats! It’s impossible to know exactly what you’re getting into until you’re there but these are five things to think about before you marry someone with children.
1. It won’t always be about you.
The kids were there first and didn’t ask for their parents to divorce. They’ve been through a break up of their family and continue to have to adjust to a changing family structure. Your spouse will (and should) often put their needs ahead of yours, especially if the kids are only weekend visitors. It’s normal to feel some jealousy but let compassion and love dictate your actions. If you don’t have children of your own, you may be surprised at how many compromises you will need to make.
2. Things won’t always be smooth sailing.
There may be times your step-children resent your intrusion into their family. Almost every child yearns for the reconciliation of their parent and they may view you as the barrier that prevents that from happening. Be understanding and patient as they adjust. Do not be the disciplinarian! This is the biological parent’s role and your intrusion will cause confusion and resentment! There will be good times and there will be tough times but that goes along with the territory of raising kids.
3. The other parent will be part of your life.
The sooner you accept this, the happier everyone will be. There will be birthdays, recitals, soccer games and graduations where you will be required to appear together. Be gracious and kind, even if you don’t feel like it. Even when not physically present, their presence will always be a part of your spouse’s past and your step-children’s life. Never say anything negative about the other parent in earshot of the children! A peaceful co-parenting situation is a goal that should be strived for as it will greatly benefit the children.
4. It doesn’t end when the child is 18.
Many people make the mistake of believing step-parenting is a short-term gig. It’s not! When you marry someone with children, you are signing up for a lifetime commitment, not just to your spouse but also to the step-kids. Long after the high school graduation, your involvement with stepchildren will continue. In fact, you may eventually be a step-grandparent!
5. Patience is required.
It may take a few weeks for your step-children to bond with you and it may take years. Many variables may go into this such as age of the children, the ability of the parents to co-parent effectively, and your active involvement with the children. Find a hobby or activity to share with the children. Spend quality time with them but also realize they need some time alone with their biological parent. Especially in the beginning of your relationship, make sure they still feel like their connection with their parent is special and solid.
Being a step-parent can be difficult at times but it can also be very rewarding. Forming a new family isn’t easy but it can be done well. Let patience, understanding and love be your guiding force.