The devastation caused by breakups and divorces is compounded when children are involved. Single parenting can feel like the weight of the whole world is resting solely on your shoulders. And co-parenting can feel impossible, especially when bad feelings linger from the ended relationship.
The difficulties are only compounded when one of you remarries. An added helping hand may feel like a gift from above. But new and more complex relational dynamics will be added to your parenting relationships, and cooperation will take on a completely new meaning. You’ll likely encounter issues like misunderstandings over who’s in charge, a division in loyalties, and challenges to authority.
To stay focused, always follow this rule: in every situation, ask yourself, “Is this about me, or is it about my kids?”
Setting rules and boundaries after remarriage is like a surgical procedure: it’s both brutal and delicate. It requires a cool head, a steady hand, and usually a bit of muscle. And a total understanding of the situation is absolutely necessary. This understanding can only result from mutual respect and open communication. Ideally, all adults involved collaborate to build a supportive environment for the kids. The adults should strive to ensure that the biological parents’ roles are respected, and help the stepparents adapt to their new co-parenting roles.
Here are some points to consider regarding roles and creating boundaries after remarriage:
- As the parents of your children, you and your ex need to agree to respect each other. It’s important that each parent gets enough quality time with the kids.
- When it comes to co-parenting, the stepparents’ wants and desires must be considered. Bonding is crucial for stepparents, but proper respect for the biological parents must be maintained. Stepparents are not replacement parents. They are distinct, unique people to support and love the kids.
- It can be really difficult for kids to adjust to new parents. What roles each parent now plays can cause confusion. Even when the parents and stepparents are trying to avoid these feelings, kids’ fears of abandonment are stoked and their loyalties are tested. Kids experience raw and overwhelming emotions when it comes to stress in their families. The best way to handle this is to approach your children’s feelings honestly and openly.
Who Is This Really About?
But unfortunately, it’s common for the exes to barely be on speaking terms, and communicating about your kids with your ex can feel like navigating a minefield. But when you feel like running away because the stress levels are increasing, it’s important to ask yourself: Are your actions about your kids’ feelings, or your own?
There’s always baggage involved from previous relationships. As single parents, we’ve learned to do things the way that makes it all work. Cooperating with your ex while adapting to the new parental voice in the mix can feel daunting. It’s important to discern if what you’re saying, doing, feeling, or thinking is truly about your kids’ best interests, or if your own old baggage is creeping in.
I ask that question often in my relationships with my new husband and with my ex. My kids live full-time with me and their stepfather and see their biological father every weekend. I frequently must hold my tongue over thing my ex says, but I have to let it all go and focus on what’s best for my kids.
There are other challenges. As a single parent, I had my own routine. Everything played out according to my standards. I had my way of handling everything. When I started dating again, and especially when we decided to get married, I had to fit this new person into the life I’d built. This wasn’t easy! I had to discover how my fiancé wanted to be involved in the lives of my kids. And I had to figure out what I wanted from him. My son, who can remember when his father still lived with us, resisted accepting a new parental figure. And after he got used to the idea of a stepfather, he flipped out about how loving a stepfather would affect the relationship he has with his biological father. It took some time for him to realize that his father would never stop being his father.
We’ve all had to work together to make everything run smoothly. Through the process, new family dynamics have emerged. My daughter is especially close to her stepfather, while my son is more guarded. Both of them still love to spend time with their biological father, but they’ve learned to depend on me for support. I’ve come to understand that when it comes to defining the boundaries and roles in our blended family, sometimes expectations must be released to figure out what will make us the happiest. The roles can’t be forced, but boundaries can be established to strengthen the family’s bonds while respecting each person involved.