A blended family often brings big feelings along with it. You can’t stop family members from having feelings, of course, and experts generally agree that it’s important to let feelings happen without repression. But what kind of feelings are your kids experiencing? How can you be prepared at least somewhat for the emotions involved in your step-family?
While each child is an individual, here are some general thoughts and ideas on how remarriage affects kids.
1. You’re Not Mom/Dad
Many children, particularly older ones, may feel uncomfortable or hurt when they see their mom or dad with another man or woman. It can feel very odd and “not right” to them, and kids may feel that forming a close relationship with a step-parent makes them “disloyal” to their biological parent. They may be afraid of making their biological parent angry, and some biological parents do get angry when their kids bond with step-parents. (That’s not considered healthy by experts – make sure you’re not one of those parents!)
It’s important to recognize that it’s not necessarily easy for children to bond with a step-parent, even if the step-parent is great.
It’s not unusual for children in blended families to feel jealous – not just of the other kids that may be moving in, but also of the new step-parent. Opposite-sex step-parents may pose a particular challenge – little boys may be jealous of their mother spending time with a step-father, and little girls may not be too happy with another woman taking time away with Daddy.
3. Anger and Betrayal
Sometimes, children feel angry when one or both of their biological parents remarries. They may feel as though they have been cheated out of a “normal” family, or that one or both of their parents has betrayed them by marrying someone other than their biological parent. Children sometimes have difficulty understanding the complexities of adult relationships, and they may have trouble understanding why Mom and Dad can’t just live together and be married.
It’s not uncommon for kids to blame themselves when their family lives are challenging. They may see the divorce as their fault (if there is divorce), or they may see themselves as the reason Mom and Dad aren’t married to each other. This can result in what looks like anger or resentment, but it’s actually self-blame. This feeling of blame may also present itself as “clinginess,” where the child feels guilty for leaving the favored parent.
These are just some of the complex emotions surrounding remarriage. One thing is certain: remarriage does affect kids. Finding a good counselor and/or therapist can help a great deal.