Life after divorce is nothing if not full of changes. The world you had is gone forever and the future lies before you like a vast unknown land shrouded in mist and full of uncertainty. Finding a new partner to share your journey is often a high and very understandable priority.
It has been estimated that around 60% of divorced couples have children under sixteen and about 75% of divorcees remarry then there are a lot of kids getting used to a new ‘parent' in the house. Welcome to the blended (or sometimes not so blended) family.
Remarriage after divorce is always likely to be more difficult than it was the first time around. You are older and possibly wiser having learnt a lot from the experience of a relationship ‘failure'. This may weigh heavily upon you. Having kids as well adds to the potential for even greater difficulty. However, don't be faint hearted it can be done and it can work very well indeed.
What are the problems?
The emotional response to this dramatic family change will be based primarily on the child's age, stage in their development and the environment in which these changes take place. Children will be the most anxious about the uncertainty of their future.
Many questions will be raised, such as 'Where will we live? Can I stay at the same school? Will I have to share my room? Will I have to call him Dad? Where do I fit into this new family group? These anxieties go to the very core of your child's life and need to be addressed gently and honestly.
Teenagers may well be the most distressed, because they're at the point in their lives when they're starting to move into adulthood, having boyfriends and girlfriends, starting to form their own relationships outside the family. They're all too well aware of their parents' relationship shortcomings and are wondering if theirs will fare any better.
Children may experience sadness as they realise that their parents will not reunite and that life as they knew it really has gone forever. They can be jealous of any time and attention given to the new partner or step-sibling. The established relationships pre divorce will be swept away and replaced by the uncertainties of the new blended family. Children will experience loyalty conflicts which may surface as anger and resentment towards you and your new partner.
How to make some of the difficulties go away
The absolutely key thing to remember is that this is even more disrupting for your children than it is for you. The best way to approach this transition to the next phase of your life after divorce is to work very hard to maintain open communication between all of you and allow your children to express their feelings and concerns however negative they may be. They will only accept and work within the new expanded family if they feel comfortable with it. This advice is a million times easier to give than to carry out but it can be done and it really is the only way to go.
Specific stuff you can do
Look to other family members for help. Grandparents can fulfill an extremely important role in providing continuity and giving loving support. Try to maintain other links within the family. Cousins, aunts and uncles can be valuable in demonstrating that not everything is changing in the family.
When you talk to your children, don't interrupt. Give them the space and confidence to express themselves. Be patient and practice active listening skills. You will probably not agree with your child, that's not the point. This time is for listening and understanding his or her feelings, not for arguing about them.
Spend some time doing fun things with your children, without your partner. Allow them exclusive access and give them all your attention. Make them feel the special people they really are.
It isn't going to be easy but it can be done
Moving into a long term relationship after divorce is not easy and with children there are so many extra considerations. Do your best and carry your children with you gently. The goal of a smoothly blended family can be achieved and a great new life with a new partner can be yours.