Q: When I met and fell in love with the young widow who is now my fiancée, I felt like the most blessed man in the world! Not only had I found the wife of my dreams, but I was getting three great children in the bargain—a ready-made family. Maybe I was being unrealistic, but winning the children’s love and respect hasn’t been as easy as I expected. Do you have any advice for this struggling dad?
A: You’re not alone. When a single parent remarries, it is often not smooth sailing from the beginning. It takes time and lots of love to become a tightly knit family. It’s common for older children, especially, to resent the new husband or wife at first because they feel no one could ever take the place of the father or mother that’s not with them. Younger children may also resent having to share their parent’s affection with the newcomer. Many new stepparents make the mistake of taking this personally, and becoming frustrated and discouraged and pulling back. Fight to put sensitivity aside. A lot depends on the age and maturity of the children, but here are a few things that have worked well for others:
Communicate. Honest open communication is the first step. If it’s clear that only one or two children are unhappy with the new arrangement, it would probably be best to discuss problems and possible solutions with them individually. This is a good time to follow the biblical advice to be “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19). Then, once each child has had a chance to put their feelings into words and you have established a basis of trust, you might want to try an informal family meeting around a snack or special meal, where each explains how they feel about their new family and what changes or improvements they’d like to see.
Take time. The best investment you can make in your new family is your time, and one of the best places to start is by following through on some of the “changes and improvements” they suggest, if reasonable and doable.
Pray. Children need time to adjust, and overcoming some negative attitudes can take a while. Ask the Lord to give you understanding and deep, genuine love for the others, as well as for His help in changing in whatever ways you need to for the sake of the other’s happiness and well-being.
Taken from Activated Magazine. Used with permission.