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20October2017

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A new marriage with my kids and your kids-PART ONE

Have you been given a new chance at happiness? Do you and you partner both have children from a previous marriage who now have to fit into a new picture?

Margaret has been a single mom for the last three years. Her eight year old son and six year old daughter visit their dad every second weekend. Six months ago Margaret met Anthony. He is completely different to her ex, and does and says things that are important to her. When these two are together, they look like two teenagers who are in love and can’t keep their hands off each other.

Anthony is also divorced and has a nine year old son, who comes to visit every second weekend. Margaret’s daughter immediately accepted Anthony, as she enjoys spending time with him. Her son, however, has reacted by becoming withdrawn and has unexpected and untimely rage outbursts, especially if Anthony’s son also comes to visit them.

Anthony’s son likes new friends but is somewhat aloof towards Margaret. Margaret and Anthony really want to start a life together, but if they want to prevent this potentially explosive situation, there are certain guidelines that will have to be followed.

Roughly 83% of marriages in South Africa end in court. Most divorcees get married again. This obviously means that there are a great amount of reconstructed families and that it is on the increase. It is no longer a strange occurrence to have my children, your children and our children in a marriage. It does however bring with it challenges.

So, what do you do?

This will be one of the hardest challenges, bringing two different families together who may be sitting with their own hurt and disappointment, and then trying to form one new, happy family. Not only do the couple have to adjust to a new marriage, but the children also have to adjust to a new parent and his/her children. Everyone has to find their place in the hierarchy of the new family and this often causes tension. At times the influence or impact of your partner’s previous spouse also has to be dealt with and you will always have to respect your partner’s ex as the mother or father of his or her children.

Before you in any way find yourself in another marriage, it is of cardinal importance that one always ensures that you are emotionally healthy yourself. You have to bury the ghosts of your past and be at peace and have resolved your loss and pain. Then, and only then, one can give love in abundance and allow yourself to be vulnerable again.

Parents that get remarried, have often been single parents for a long time. If you are a single parent, you will know what it means that your children become your alpha and omega. You live, eat and work just for them – thus your kids are your number one priority in life. Now you fall in love with a new partner and a whole bunch of new challenges arise.

You have to share your children with him and not only with his biological parent. At the same time your children will now have to share you with your new partner – and children by their very nature struggle to share! Your new partner and children both find themselves in the sharing-dilemma. What now?

Children’s most basic need, next to being cared for, is to feel emotionally safe. Emotional safety is achieved when parents are constant with their children. Yes, you and your partner will most certainly differ over things regarding the children that is why communication is so important.

Two emotionally healthy people within a marriage will therefore handle the challenges much easier. From the offset it needs to be made clear that this is a new family unit. The new parent does not replace the children’s biological parent, but also play an important role in the child’s development (notice we don’t talk about a step parent, but another parent). Consequently no differentiation is made between my children and your children, they are OUR children.

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR PART TWO . . .

Article by SUZETTE EBERSOHN AND ELMARI MULDER-CRAIG