Your first union didn’t last. Once every wound is healed, your heart is ready for new love. Everything is going fine and you start thinking about living together and mixing both families under one roof. How can you put all the chances on your side to make this transition successful?
There are no magic tricks or special guidelines that can guarantee success, but planning this move will save you many headaches. When a new couple decides to live under the same roof with their respective children, it shakes things up for everyone. “When both adults have harmonious and respectful relationships with their ex-spouses, it makes things a lot easier. It allows for less arguing and stress around the blended family. This way, we avoid putting oil to the fire by having an ex-partner speak poorly of the new spouse”, suggests Lorraine Vallée, a psychologist.
A stressful step for children
For children who still hope their parents will “get back together”, this move shatters all of their reconciliation dreams. These children must be reassured. “Parents must remind their children that the relationship between them is forever and that they will never “divorce” them. They must remind their children that the separation is not because of them and that it is a grown-up decision. It’s important to tell your children that it’s alright to love mommy or daddy’s new spouse. This takes nothing away from the love they have for their mother or father”, explains Michelle Parent, psychologist. This loyalty conflict may be very hard on the child who is stopping him/herself from investing into the new relationship with the new spouse by fear of hurting their other parent.
The importance for parents to act like… adults!
“Parents must make the difference between the marital couple and the parental couple. They must mourn the marital couple that doesn’t exist anymore and understand that they will always remain a parental couple. The pain associated with the explosion of the marital couple deeply influences the parental couple. The more often parents talk about their past life as a marital couple, the more the children will suffer. On the flip side, if both partners are over their old marital life, they will be able to recognize the good mother or father they each are to their children, allowing the kids to feel safe and loved. The distinction is important: “he may not be a good spouse, that doesn’t mean that he is not a good father”. If this distinction is clear and parents respect each other, the children will blossom”, says Michelle Parent.
When children feel good, are not going through loyalty conflicts and feel just as loved as before, they have better chances of adapting well to the new cohabitation.
It ain’t over ’til it’s over
Even if everything seems set for the move to be successful, this new step remains a challenge. “Children don’t manage your life, but try to be sensitive to what they are going through. Try putting yourself in their shoes: imagine if you were asked to move in with someone you barely know or don’t particularly like, and maybe even move to a new town, change schools and loose all your friends… Your children will obviously not jump for joy when they hear the news”, explains Lorraine Vallée. Parents need to act as adults. Every adult involved in the situation must be mature to allow the transition to go smoothly and harmoniously. “It is sometimes difficult for an ex-spouse to see the other one moving in with a new lover. If the old relationship isn’t completely over, it’s a hard blow to take”, reminds Lorraine Vallée.
Make sure that you’re not in a rush when you tell your child that you are all moving next month and that the house is already sold. “Use some tact to help the idea simmer in your child’s head. Remember that your child has not chosen this situation but he still has to deal with its consequences”, says Mrs. Vallée.
Time heals everything
Like for many things in life, time can be very helpful. “You would probably love for everything to go quickly, but it is important to let the new blended family “come to life”. Usually, people go from being a couple to wanting a child, getting pregnant and then waiting a few months for a baby. So in this case, you have to “conceive” a new family and give it some time to develop. By preparing your children for the future cohabitation, by making them see the positive sides, by listening to their fears and worries and by finding compromises, you will understand their resistance and will be able to make some adjustments (moving in the same town to keep them in the same school, for example). Make the project interesting for them. Don’t impose anything to your children or try to make it work at all costs. Doing so will start you off on the wrong foot”, says Lorraine Vallée.