Divorced and Remarried with Children

This week I am writing about moms who remarry. You might want to see my first post from Monday on single moms who marry. Today I would like to address moms who marry men with children. Statistics say that approximately one-third of all weddings in America today form stepfamilies.  In 2001, 38% of all US marriages were remarriages for one or both partners (15% for both; 23% for one)[i]

What this means is many divorced parents are remarrying, and that in quite a few cases both are bringing children into the new marriage. If only they all looked and functioned like the fictional Brady Bunch! The expectations a happy couple has going into the new marriage are usually dashed early on, and replaced with some uncomfortable and even unhappy realities. A blended family can be a great family, but it takes a lot of work and dedication.

The reality is blended families are unique in many ways and bear little to no resemblance to the Brady Bunch. On average, it takes 2-3 years before a union of hers and his operates or feels like a family.

A woman who is about to be remarried is happy and relieved she will no longer be alone. If the children are old enough to understand, they are most likely also glad their mom has found someone to share her life. However, it is important to understand that for the children, mom’s remarriage generally brings a mixture of emotions.

Mom’s remarriage can be a loss for the children. Many children secretly cling to the hope that mom and dad will get back together, and remarriage ends that dream.  
Some children experience a sense of loss because mom’s time and attention are not exclusively theirs anymore. She is giving love to her new husband and most likely making an extra effort with his kids. Her children can feel as though they are lost in the shuffle.

Extra people in the house will bring a loss of privacy and personal space. Sometimes it means shared bedrooms and bathrooms, sharing the television remote control, or having to adjust to a new routine to accommodate the new family members.  Sharing of physical space and possessions is something that must be addressed to prevent anger and bitterness from developing.  

When mom remarries, it can mean moving to a new home and a new school. In the midst of adjusting to a new father figure, and new family members they also have to make new friends.  These can be very difficult transitions for some children, and you would be wise to listen carefully and address their losses biblically. It is important not to deny what the child is experiencing, but to frame it biblically for them.

Help them to understand that your remarriage is the beginning of another relationship, an additional relationship for them.  It is critical that the child be aware that while they won’t ever have their original family unit back, but the Lord has given more people to love, support and care for them.  You might show the children Hebrews 4:14-16 and show them that Jesus understands their sorrow and their trials. You might tell them that Jesus also was part of a blended family! Spend time reading the book of Ruth, particularly the story of Ruth and Boaz to show the children how God can use loss to bring about His will.

A child who is struggling with the loss of privacy and personal space should be shown that while we like to take ownership of things and people, everything we have is on loan to use from God.  It is a great opportunity to teach them about stewardship and the biblical perspective on personal rights.

A child who is having a hard time with a loss of identity can be taught their identity in Christ, and their place in His family as an adopted son or daughter. This can be a great opening to the gospel. 

You and your intended should be praying together and involving the children in prayer as you prepare to form the new family unit. Let the children hear you and your future husband pray for them and for the new family.

Understand this is a journey for everyone and it takes a lot of grace and understanding to build a new family, but with wisdom and care, it can be done well.