If you’re getting remarried, you may worry that your kids will have a hard time adjusting to your new spouse and step-siblings. To protect your children both emotionally and financially, it’s important to establish clear boundaries and expectations. Here are five steps to help you do that.
Explain that your new spouse is not replacing their other parent.
Your children’s loyalty to your ex may cause them to regard their new stepparent with suspicion and keep their distance, especially if they’ve harbored a fantasy that you and your ex will reunite. So address their concerns directly. Assure them that your fiancé has no intention of replacing their other parent and is simply another person on their team. Understand that it may take time for your kids to come around.
Spend time alone with your children.
Even adult children can view your new spouse as competition. They may resent your fiancé for intruding into your time with them. They may worry that you’ll love them, and your new stepchildren, more. Protect your relationship with your kids by planning some activities without your fiancé. Getting your undivided attention will make them feel valued. If they feel confident about their relationship with you, they’re less likely to feel threatened by their stepparent.
Maintain important rituals and traditions.
Remarriage usually involves establishing new rituals and traditions to accommodate your new partner. But remember: your kids are attached to the traditions they’ve grown up with, so it’s important to keep some the same. For instance, if you’re going to adopt your new spouse’s custom of opening presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning, make sure to continue the rest of your Christmas rituals: for instance, special meals, caroling, a family outing on Christmas Day. Preserving traditions will keep your children from associating their stepparent with loss.
Protect your children in your estate planning. If you and your new spouse have joint assets, how will those be split among your children and stepchildren after your death? If you predecease your spouse, who will inherit your separate property, i.e. assets you brought into the marriage? Make sure the terms are clear and equitable to prevent posthumous squabbles.
Don’t pressure your child to be close with their new stepparent and stepsiblings.
Your children need to feel valued for who they are. Don’t make that value conditional by expecting them to be the ultimate big sister or brother to a stepsibling they barely know or to love their stepparent as their own. Forging these bonds will take time. Anticipate that there may be some awkwardness or resistance while they’re getting to know their new family members. While you don’t want to tolerate rudeness, you also need to respect your child’s right to adjust to these changes on their own timetable.
Getting remarried and want to legally prepare for a successful second marriage? For answers to your questions about child custody, prenuptial agreements, alimony, child support and more, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our skilled family lawyers.
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