One common problem is anger. Just like adults, children get angry because they got something they didn’t want, or they didn’t get something they did want. When mom remarries it is probably both! Most kids didn’t want their parents to get divorced, they wanted their parents to work harder at keeping the family together. Once the divorce took place the child hoped their parents would reconcile.
The child may not have wanted their mom to remarry and don’t want some new guy in their life acting like an authority. The child may not want to share mom with a stepparent or stepsiblings, they want things to be the way they used to be. These changes can bring anger to the surface.
You can expect to see anger toward the parent who left because he ruined their family life. The child may have a skewed view of life before dad left. His or her perception is their reality. Sometimes the child is angry at their mom, thinking she didn’t do enough to keep dad around.
The stepfather can also be a recipient of the child’s anger. When mom remarried, it ruined their dream that someday mom and dad would get back together. The stepfather may have brought children he or she didn’t want into the family and possibly into the house! If there are personality conflicts between the children, that is another issue that has to be addressed. The children may not even like each other or be outright hostile to one another.
The child may respond with a great deal of anger and resentment when his/her stepfather attempts to correct or discipline them. The child may deeply resent him asserting his authority and may completely rebel and disrespect their stepfather.
Teach the children how to live their lives in a manner that glorifies God. Help them to learn and understand the basics of the sovereignty of God over their situation. Teach them they don’t have to respond sinfully even though they are angry. Teach the child that this time in his/her life is a faith building time, and they can trust that God has their best interests at heart.
When there is conflict in the home ask the family members if having their own way is more important than loving others? Ask if having their own way is more important than glorifying God. Teach what the Bible says about personal rights and have them read stories of those who surrendered their perceived rights for the sake of the gospel (such as missionaries like Jim Elliot). This will help the children grow in humility and put others ahead of themselves as well as increase their faith and trust in God.
Another common problem for a child when his or her mom remarries is guilt. You should know that children are fiercely loyal and when they begin to develop an emotional bond and a good relationship with their stepfather and his children they will experience a conflict in loyalty. Often children come to love these new people in their life and they struggle with wanting to be a part of the new family and fear they are being disloyal and hurting their biological father.
Explain to the child that it doesn’t have to be an either or situation, there is plenty of love to go around. If the child’s father has been an active influence, continue to encourage (if appropriate) the relationship with him. Assure the child that enjoying new relationships is not sinful or a betrayal of old ones, despite how it feels. Encourage the child to memorize a passage like Philippians 4:8-12 and to tell themselves the truths found in that passage when they are struggling with their thoughts.
If everyone in the family attempts to live this way, relationships will be built, repaired, and restored among the family members.