Becoming part of a stepfamily inevitably involves the breakdown of an old one e.g. via divorce. It is common to confuse the feelings children have about the breakdown of the original family with their feelings about being in a stepfamily.
Happy ever after...or not...
Most children want their parents to live together and to live happily ever after. Even if a relationship ended years before and parents are long divorced, many children hold on to hopes of reconciliation. The introduction of a step-parent means the end of these dreams. After divorce or bereavement, children may have become particularly close to the resident or remaining parent and a step-parent will, very likely, be seen as a threat to the status quo.
Some children worry that the new step-parent is going to get in the way of their relationship with the absent parent. Or if they particularly like the step-parent, they may feel they are being disloyal.
Concerns about new relationships after a divorce
Most children will have a deep seated desire to get on well with a new step-parent but many grow up with stories of wicked step-parents so they will need plenty of reassurance and time to learn that these are myths and not an inevitable part of being part of a step family.
Children are also great worriers. They will probably be anxious about building relationships with step siblings and these concerns will be magnified in a shared house. They will also be concerned about practical issues, such as money, transport, mealtimes and sleeping arrangements but on an emotional level they may think that there may not be enough love and time to go around.
Involve the children
Make sure you include children in planning new arrangements and spend time with them individually to help them understand that they and what they think, are important.
Changes in behaviour
When new families are created after divorce, so are new rules, so expect children to behave differently while they adjust. These behavioural changes will depend on your particular circumstances as well as on the age and personality of an individual child.
During this time children may become more tearful and demanding of your attention. They may develop anxieties about being left alone or doing new things or they may become angry, disobedient or withdrawn and want to spend more time alone or with their friends.
All these changes are due to the insecurity that comes with change. Being patient and offering reassurance that they are loved will help make the adjustment to their new family as smooth as possible.