PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Stepfamilies: Then Comes Remarriage

Here it is. The big moment. Your mom is telling you that she and her boyfriend would like to get married. Maybe you're happy, maybe you're not. Either way, you're going to have some questions, such as:

Does this mean my parents' marriage is really, truly over?
Many people have a secret hope that their divorced parents might eventually get back together, especially if everyone's been on good terms. But now, with one of them deciding to get married again to someone else, that secret hope goes POOF. Even though it may have been years since your parents split up, a remarriage can bring back feelings of sadness and loss. It means a kind of "final emotional divorce." It might even be tempting to try to drive away your stepparent-to-be, thinking that if he or she is out of the picture, your mom or dad will come back to live with you.

Let's say things have been calm and peaceful between your parents for a while, but when your father announces he's getting married again, your mother gets hurt and angry. Or maybe you're the one who feels furious and starts making trouble. It's a normal reaction. After all, change is tough for adults and kids alike. The divorce was one big change, and now here comes another one.

If you're feeling this way:

  • Remind yourself that your parents would be staying divorced even if this new person weren't there. Ask your parents to help you understand this, if you need it.

  • Try to look at your parent's new marriage as a healthy, positive step into the future. It means your mother or father has found happiness again, and that you have some fresh, exciting experiences ahead of you.

  • Remember that divorce or no divorce, none of us can go back, only forward-and now you and your family is getting the chance to do that.

Is this person really here to stay?
When your parents first started dating other people after the divorce, you probably got to know and perhaps even love each new person. But then his or her relationship with your mom or dad ended. Maybe you feel like you've "given your heart away" a few times, only to have it broken over and over.

By the time your mom or dad has found someone new to marry, you may have built up a wall against him or her because you don't want to get hurt again. Maybe you've even tried to "test" this new person by acting out. That's totally normal. After all, why would we want another loss in our lives, especially after dealing with the divorce in the first place?

But it's important to trust your parent's commitment to his or her new spouse. If you're not sure, ask your mom and dad questions that will help you feel like it's okay to open your heart again, such as: "What's different about Joe compared to your other boyfriends?" or "When did you know that you wanted to marry Katie?"

How is my relationship with my mom or dad going to change?
You've probably gotten used to a certain kind of life with your single parent. Maybe you always get to ride in the front seat of the car, have a regular Saturday afternoon movie date, or are the first person your mom or dad confides in about problems at work.

Now that one or more new people are coming into your lives, will you lose all that? The fact is, things will change. You might not have as much one-on-one time with your mom or dad, because now he or she has a priority to the new partner and possibly responsibilities to that person's children. But it's also important that you and your parent keep doing the things that are special for both of you. Here's how you can help make that happen:

  • Create a list of the activities and privileges that are part of your relationship with your mom or dad.

  • Sit down with your parent and ask how each of these might change, or not change, after the remarriage.

  • Let him or her know which things on the list are most precious to you, and talk about how to keep them in your life.

Still worried? Try to keep this in mind: in any family, there is always enough love to go around. If you have a younger brother or sister, you might remember feeling afraid that once your new sib was born, you wouldn't get as much love. But in the end, you did, right? Think of a new stepparent and stepsiblings the same way.

How does my other parent fit into this situation?
Many people ask themselves, "If I like or love my new stepdad, is my dad going to feel bad? Am I being disloyal to him? Will he still love me as much?" Maybe you feel like you need "permission" from your parent to welcome your other parent's new spouse into your heart. It might help to say to that parent, "I need to know that it's okay with you that I care for this person that Mom/Dad is marrying."

You can help your mom or dad be okay with it by bringing up this subject BEFORE problems happen. For instance, you might come home from a visit with your dad and future stepmom and say something like:

  • "I spent some time with Julia today. She seems like a really nice person, and I hope she and I will get along."

  • "Did you know that you and Julia both like Tom Cruise movies? You have a lot in common."

  • "I think Julia might be an interesting extra person in my life. She's not replacing you, because you're my mom and nobody else, but it'll be cool to get to know her."

In other words, show your parent that you understand this stepparent is an ADDITIONAL person in your life, not a SUBSTITUTE, and help everyone see their similarities. If your parents are on good terms, you might suggest arranging a time for everyone to meet.

The bottom line is this: you may live with your mom and your new stepdad, but your father is also part of this new stepfamily. Your relationship to him, as well as to his parents, siblings, and other relatives, is still a big part of your family life. If one of your parents has died, you still have memories and/or a connection to relatives, so these people are part of your family too. Remember that all families grow and change, and your family is doing that in its own special way by getting BIGGER. It may be a little more complicated than your friends' families-but is that such a bad thing

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