America is a nation built on second chances. Consider, for a moment, the number of high-profile incidents or embarrassments involving celebrities or public figures, and how many have gone on to even greater success and fame afterward. For many, love and marriage is not terribly different. Despite a failed first marriage, more couples than ever are willing to walk down the aisle again in the hopes of finding the permanent happiness that has, so far, eluded them. Remarriage, however, can be extremely challenging, as many couples beginning second or third marriages are bringing with them children from previously relationships. Finding the right balance between parent and friend is often difficult for new stepparents, but there are some things you should keep in mind to make the transition a little more comfortable for everyone involved.
As you fell in love with your new spouse, you knew that he or she already had children. Thus, the process of becoming a healthy blended family probably began long before thoughts of marriage ever crossed your mind. During the dating process, it can be very easy to try to ignore your partner’s children and the potential impact on your relationship, but doing so is not very conducive to a future together. It is important, however, to start slow and not to impose yourself on an existing family dynamic in such a way that will be overly upsetting. Understand that you will probably feel like something of an outsider for a little while, because, in reality, that is just what you are. Over time, though, you will probably feel more included and more a part of the family than you ever thought possible.
Whether you have children of your own or not, you need to keep in mind that every stepparent’s relationship with their stepchildren is different, and may even vary from child to child. For example, your spouse’s older child may have taken to you immediately, becoming affectionate and loving without much effort, while a younger child may be more stand-offish and need additional time to adjust. Neither reaction is necessarily right or wrong, but as long as it is honest, you should be understanding and respectful. If a child wants space, allow him or her to have it; if he or she wants love and support from you, offer it. A long-term future together can only be realistic if everyone remains open and truthful about their comfort and feelings.
Blended families rely heavily on the ability of the parents and children to understand each other. Therefore, you must be able to express to your spouse what you need and what you are willing to offer. He or she should be well-equipped to offer insight on his or children and how they are adjusting to the new situation. Listen to what is being said and use it to improve your relationship in a way that is both healthy and productive. Make a plan regarding your role in issues such as education, discipline, and basic household duties, so that expectations are very clear to all family members.
You must also be able to communicate with the children directly. Explain with words and demonstrate by your actions that you do not intend to replace their biological parent, nor take their other parent from them by your marriage. Help them realize that you are committed to providing a safe, nurturing environment in which everyone is respected, loved, and completely cared for.
If you are considering a second or third marriage, you should discuss your situation with an experienced Illinois family law attorney. At Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., we understand the potential legal complexities of remarriages and blended families, we are equipped to help you make the necessary arrangement to protect yourself and your children. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free initial consultation today and get the security you need as you seek the happiness you deserve.