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Prepare Children For Parents' Marriages
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Couples are no longer the only ones adjusting to new marriages. Children from previous relationships often have the hardest time adapting to a new parent in the house.
Dr. Louise Davis, extension child and family development specialist at Mississippi State University, said effective communication early-on is the key to helping children accept step-parents.
"Children may resent their divorced parents dating other people, and resent even more the thought of another marriage," Davis said. "Parents need to help their children understand that adults need relationships with other adults."
Introduce adult friends to children in a positive, optimistic way. Children form their opinions early and quickly.
As a dating relationship progresses, look for opportunities for joint activities.
"Don't try to shield children from your dates just to avoid conflict," Davis said. "Be willing to talk about the child's feelings and try to understand their concerns."
Whether children are 8 or 48, they need reassurance of their value and place in the parent's life.
Before the wedding, couples need to discuss child-rearing issues such as rules, discipline, finances and expectations.
"Couples should talk through each other's expected role in a child's life. Discuss discipline, traditions and financial matters such as college, cars, insurance and other expenses that could have a major impact on the family budget," Davis said.
Discuss family rules early. Biological parents and step-parents need to agree on major child-rearing issues before the wedding, or be able to compromise.
"Families may need to find a mediator to counsel everyone through the rough spots," Davis said.
When conflicts involve the child's other biological parent, the step-parent needs to let their spouse handle the situation.
Dr. Ann Jarratt, a family counselor in Starkville, said if teenage children are not in favor of a marriage, couples can expect conflict.
"The stress caused by a child opposed to a step-parent eventually results in problems between the husband and wife," Jarratt said. "To begin a marriage with opposition from a son or daughter is asking for long-term family problems."
Jarratt said couples may consider getting family counseling involving the teenager before the wedding. Often, a third party can help families discover the root of the conflict and begin positive relationship building.